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Report: The Bucs brought back Dirk Koetter because they didn't get Gruden

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers retained head coach Dirk Koetter for a third season in 2018 despite a 5-11 mark in 2017.

"It took a lot of courage for the Glazer family to bring me back, bring the staff back, with the record what it is," Koetter said after a season-ending 31-24 win over the New Orleans Saints. "I really appreciate that, and we'll start the evaluation process tomorrow. We'll send these guys off on their vacation and we'll start working on 2018."

Externally, the team is pointing to on-the-field reasons why they think Koetter can lead a bounce back in 2018. From

In addition to continuity with the offense and Winston, there are several other reasons the Bucs felt Koetter deserved a chance to right the ship. Here's what Rick Stroud wrote in his Tampa Bay Times column that broke the news Koetter would return next season:

The Bucs have played tough down the stretch. Six of their last seven games have been decided by one score with Tampa Bay going 1-5 in those contests.

Injuries also were a major factor in the record this season. The Bucs have seven starting quality players on injured reserve, including defensive end Noah Spence, who played in only three games before undergoing shoulder surgery.

The Bucs have invested heavily in surrounding Winston with a supporting cast on offense at the expense of their defense. Tampa Bay has drafted only two defensive linemen in the past four years and are last in the NFL with 20 sacks this season.

But, according to one report, the decision to retain Koetter came only after Tampa Bay lost out on the Gruden sweepstakes.

"That’s what you want to put out there when you finish second," longtime beat writer Ira Kaufman said in the latest episode of his podcast. "When you go at bat and you strike out."

More from Kaufman, and keep in mind that Stroud's Tampa Bay Times column was published on the evening of Friday, Dec. 29:

"By Friday, Oakland had emerged as a major player, talking to Gruden’s agent. Nobody talks to Gruden directly, everything goes through Gruden’s agent, as it should be. And Gruden’s agent, operating from a position of tremendous strength, tremendous leverage. . . . Here comes Oakland. Mark Davis, Al’s son. And in the discussions with the agent, it’s basically the agent gets the impression, ‘Whatever you guys want. Let’s make this happen. Whatever you want.’ Well, when he gets back to the Glazers and basically says, ‘We have other options, and [a] concrete option in Oakland, and they’re willing to do this, and do this, and do this.’ And I think it reached a point where the Glazers, talking among themselves, the co-chairmen, said, ‘We can’t go that far. We’re not willing to go that far. A stake in the team. $10 million dollars. Total authority. We can’t do it. Doesn’t make any sense.’ So God bless Jon. Good luck. And at that point they reached the same conclusion that I wrote 10 days ago: If you can’t get Gruden, give Koetter another chance. . . . To even suggest that the Bucs had no interest in Jon Gruden coming back to One Buc Place. How naive can you be?"

FootballScoop reported, and Gruden himself later confirmed, that team ownership won't be in Gruden's compensation package in Oakland, but it's interesting that Gruden chose the team he didn't lead to a Super Bowl over the team he did -- and the city he still lives in, nearly a decade after the Bucs fired him.

For what it's worth, here's what Kaufman told PFT Livein November, with PFT's summary afterward.

“I think Koetter’s got seven weeks to prove that this team is still buying what he’s selling. The stands are half empty, and there’s a guy out there that has a lot of juice and can fill those stands . . . I’m starting to believe it for the first time, that Gruden’s coming back.”

Jump ahead to the 2:57 mark.

Now, a month and a half later, it appears the Bucs couldn't close the deal and Gruden is off to Oakland.