Success with QBs is reason enough for Dirk Koetter to lead Bucs

Whether you believed Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht when he said other teams' interest in Dirk Koetter played no role in the decision to fire Lovie Smith after two seasons is irrelevant.

The choice of Koetter as the Bucs' new head coach makes the most sense for one big reason: Jameis Winston.

It's possible to win consistently in the NFL without a franchise quarterback, but it's ridiculously hard to be a championship team without one. There have been exceptions, such as Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, but winning a Super Bowl almost always requires an elite quarterback.

If that's what the Bucs believe they have in Winston -- and the early indications are that they do -- then hiring the coach who helped him put together one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history was the correct decision.

Winston threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns with 15 interceptions in 2015, making him just the third rookie quarterback to surpass 4,000 yards. The other two? Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. Despite having a rookie quarterback, the Bucs' offense ranked fifth overall -- fifth in rushing, led by Doug Martin's 1,402-yard season, and 17th in passing.

Koetter was a big reason for that.

It shouldn't be a surprise, though, because Koetter has earned a reputation as a coach who gets the most out of his quarterbacks. He was Matt Ryan's offensive coordinator for three seasons in Atlanta, and Ryan posted three of the top four yardage totals and completion percentages of his career.

From 2012 to 2014, Ryan averaged 4,643 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with Koetter calling plays. Ryan set franchise records in passing yards (4,719), completion percentage (68.6, which also led the NFL), and passing touchdowns (32) in his first season with Koetter. Ryan made the Pro Bowl twice in those three seasons.

In Ryan's five seasons without Koetter, he averaged 3,766 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Before Atlanta, Koetter spent five seasons in Jacksonville and got solid production out of David Garrard, a 2002 fourth-round pick. Garrard threw an NFL-low three interceptions to go along with 18 touchdowns in Koetter's first season (2007), and the Jaguars made the playoffs and beat Pittsburgh before losing to New England in the divisional round.

Three years later, Garrard threw what was then a franchise-record 23 touchdown passes (Blake Bortles shattered that mark with 35 in 2015).

It's unclear whether Koetter will serve as his own offensive coordinator and call plays and how hands-on he will be with Winston moving forward. The two got off to a great start. It was a good decision to keep him around to see where they can go.