The Bucs have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Smith's defense was last in 2017 and are allowing 34.6 points per game this season, the most in the league and are on pace to allow the most points in NFL history.
Two weeks ago, the Bucs were embarrassed at Chicago 48-10 and allowed six touchdown passes to Mitch Trubisky. On Sunday, Tampa Bay allowed the Falcons to score on four of their first five possessions and dug a 21-6 hole.
Linebackers coach Mark Duffner will replace Smith. He served as the Bengals defensive coordinator/linebackers coach from 2001-02.
"I have the utmost respect for Mike Smith as a man and as a football coach," coach Dirk Koetter said. "These decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed. As I ahve said in the past, the issues as have had as a team are never one person's fault. During the good times, as well as the bad, it is a collective effort between the coaches and the players. We all understand that this is a results-based profession and our results to this point have not met our standards. I want to thank Mike for all the hard work and passion he has displayed here on a daily basis and I wish him well moving forward."
After the loss to Chicago, Koetter seemed resigned to sticking with Smith, who hired him as offensive coordinator when he was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. The two had spent one season together on Jack Del Rio's staff in Jacksonville.
"You know, for those people who think snapping your fingers and changing your (defensive) coordinator a quarter of the way through the seasons, okay, well what would you do after that?'' Koetter said two weeks ago. "We fire Mike Smith. Okay, then what would the next move be?
"Changing one person when we had things go wrong at all levels yesterday, as I said yesterday, we as coaches have got to coach better and that starts with me. But Mike Smith didn't miss any tackles, he didn't not rush the passer, he didn't blow any coverages, he didn't have any communication errors.''
But Koetter and the Bucs were hoping Smith could solve the problems during the bye week.
"Well, because we were going into the bye week. We had quite a few things, injury-wise, not work out the way we originally planned," Koetter said. "I thought it was important both sides of the ball be able to go through the self-scouting process during the bye week and see if we could make some adjustments that would help us play better as a football team. I do think we had a good plan on defense for Atlanta. We did a lot of things we planned to do. We did some things differently. But it just didn't work out that way. So, this is a production business and we have to play better on defense. We have to play better as a football team. But we have to play better on defense.
The Bucs have been doomed by slow starts on defense. Tampa Bay has allowed an average of 30.7 points in the first half of their last three games, all defeats.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was asked if he felt the defensive players let Smith down.
"I mean, I'm not sure. But me personally, I feel kind of like that because some of the guys out there were really playing for him so I feel like maybe I wasn't out there giving my best to help him keep his job," David siad. "But like I said, it's a tough business and hard to see a guy like that go because I know what type of person he is outside of football. Coach is really a standup guy. He never threw anybody under the bus. He was always a positive guy it's hard to see someone like that go, especially a person like that who has great character."
Duffner, 65, will continue to coach linebackers in addition to becoming defensive coordinator.
"You can expect a lot of energy, a lot of excitement," David said of Duffner. "That's what we get from him as LBs. I expect a lot of guys will play their best for coach Duff and everybody offensively and defensively loves coach Duff's energy and positivity so you can expect a lot of fun football."
Koetter said firing Mike Smith was the 'second-most," difficult thing he's faced as a head coach. He had a player die while he was head coach at Boise State.
"You know Mike and I worked together in Jacksonville as coordinators and I worked for Mike in Atlanta," Koetter said. "I didn't ever see this day coming but it's here. So we have to make decisions that give us the best chance for our football team moving forward. That's all you can do.