TAMPA, Fla. — With increased speculation that Dirk Koetter won’t return as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season, quarterback Jameis Winston on Thursday praised Koetter for helping with his development.
Koetter was offensive coordinator during Winston’s rookie season before being elevated to head coach in 2016. He was also responsible for benching Winston for three games this season after Winston had returned from a three-game suspension.
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At the time, Koetter believed backup Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the Buccaneers the best chance to win. He went back to Winston as his starter in Week 12.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Koetter,” Winston said Thursday. “He’s an incredible coach and he’s an incredible man. He’s helped develop me to do some incredible things as a quarterback. But at the end of the day, we’ve gotta focus on Atlanta.”
Winston said he’s not thinking about Sunday’s game possibly being their last together with the Bucs (5-10). Not only is Koetter’s job in jeopardy, but Winston’s fifth-year option, worth $20.9 million, is guaranteed only for injury until March 13, so he could be cut prior to that with no financial penalty.
Winston is only thinking about the immediate future and not about the contract situation.
“He’s not planning the game thinking that this is his last day; I’m not playing the game thinking that this is my last snap as a Buc,” Winston said. “We’re out here to win. We’ve gotta beat Atlanta.
“Me and Coach Koetter, our relationship will continue to grow because he’s a man that helped me tremendously as a quarterback in this league. And we came in this thing together and we’re still in it together. So as long as we’re together, we’re gonna go out there and do our best to get a win.”