Dirk Koetter confident he can win over Bucs upset about Lovie Smith firing

TAMPA, Fla. -- New Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter knows he has things to smooth over with defensive players who are upset about Lovie Smith's firing, but he doesn't anticipate a problem.

As long as he's honest and sincere, Koetter believes that any sore feelings will eventually fade.

"There's nothing wrong with being hurt," Koetter said Friday, shortly after being announced as the Buccaneers' fourth head coach since Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season. "It's not the first and last time we're going to be that down in our lives or be hurt. In dealing with the players at any level, players just want to know the truth. They just want you to tell it like it is and most guys can live with that.

"It won't be the same for everybody. Everybody's going to handle that a little bit different, but I'm confident that I can put forth where the Bucs are headed and I'm sure that I'll get those guys on board pretty quickly. Most players that I've come across are incredibly resilient and once they know the direction you're headed they're quick to get on board."

Koetter, the Bucs' offensive coordinator in 2015, already has one of the team's most important defensive players on his side. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy attended Friday's news conference at the team's facility and spoke briefly with Koetter when it was finished.

"Everybody is excited and we feel like we got the right guy," McCoy said. "If we were going to replace Coach Smith we picked the right person and everybody is excited. He won't have to worry about what's going on internally. He'll definitely have the support of us."

That's not what it looked like in the hours after Smith was fired on Jan. 6. Linebacker Lavonte David sent out some since-deleted tweets that showed his displeasure, including one that read: "This is stupid, we can't even have a consistent coach, 3 coaches in 5 yrs."

He also tweeted this about Smith: "Outside looking in, y'all wouldn't understand how great of a coach/person he is."

Time obviously has eased his angst because he threw his support behind Koetter on Friday.

"Everyone in the offense was comfortable with him [and] they had nothing but great things to say about him, so I'm sure that will translate over to him being the head coach of the entire team," David said. "I just feel like it's a good situation to be in because he's a coach who guys are comfortable with and he's familiar with the players that we already have. Aspirations for 2016 should be very high. I feel like we're going to do some great things with him at the helm."

David was the most critical player on Twitter, but several others tweeted that they were confused by the firing and that Smith deserved more than two years. McCoy himself tweeted: "I DON'T KNOW!!"

However, McCoy said the transition is helped by the fact that the players know Koetter a bit from his one season with the Bucs. Plus, he agreed with Koetter in what players want from their coaches.

"You definitely want a coach to tell you the truth, be honest with you, and tell you like it is," McCoy said. "You don't have to wonder or question about Coach Koetter. He says exactly what he's feeling, whether you like it or not, because that's what's necessary.

"This is the National Football League [and we are] grown men. We're professionals. You have to have tough skin. If he tells you what you don't like, I don't think he's telling you because he doesn't like you; he's telling you because it's necessary to help us win. That's going to be huge for us."

It didn't hurt Koetter's case that he was complimentary of Smith. It was evident when he talked about it that he was genuinely upset by Smith's firing. He even shouldered some of the blame.

"I said it the day I heard Mike Smith was let go in Atlanta, the day I heard Jack Del Rio was let go in Jacksonville, last Wednesday when I heard Lovie was not being retained here, the first thing that goes through your mind is, 'How could I have helped?'" Koetter said, referring to head coaches he has worked for in the NFL.

"I'll be honest with you: I'm a little bit hurt that Lovie's not here."