Koetter, Dimitroff true believers NFC South will be a Panther hunt


TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 13, 2015, in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers lost 24-17. (photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
(Jameis Winston photos courtesy Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Talk of Fame Network

The Talk of Fame Network continues its early look at NFL divisional races as we approach the end of OTAs, visiting with new Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach Dirk Koetter and Atlanta Falcons' general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who are both in hot pursuit of the NFC defending champion Carolina Panthers .

Koetter took over in January after transforming Tampa’s offense last season into the fifth-best in the NFL despite a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston. Koetter bucked conventional wisdom by putting an emphasis on the running game that led to the rebirth of Doug Martin, who finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,402 yards.

So why did he buck the trend of throwing 65 percent of the time?

“When you’ve got a workhorse running back they want the ball,’’ Koetter explained on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “For big-time running backs to do their thing, they need to see the ball. But to commit to the run you’ve got to move the chains. If you keep feeding him the ball, those three, four-yard gains become 10, 12-yard gains.’’

So they did with Martin, who flourished under Koetter and who allowed Winston time to develop. The rookie struggled initially, throwing seven interceptions in his first four games, but over the final 12 he was picked off only eight times, a testament to Koetter’s coaching and Winston’s hard work.

“The knock on Jameis coming out (of Florida State) was he’d put his team in a hole and then pull them out,’’ Koetter said. “We were constantly preaching to Jameis that the NFL wasn’t like that. He got off to a rough start and had a meeting with himself. He’s a tireless worker. I think the sky is the limit. The upside is huge.’’

Dimitroff feels the same about the Falcons, who are in the third year of a rebuilding plan he hopes will recreate their 13-3 seasons when he was twice named NFL Executive of the Year. After starting off 5-0 last year, Atlanta went 1-7 before rallying to win two of its last three and finish second in the division. Which team reflects who the Falcons will be in 2016?

“I do believe the one who started 5-0,’’ Dimitroff said. “I like our speed. I like our talent.’’

We also visit with Hall-of-Fame voter Jeff Duncan, who spent decades covering the New Orleans Saints. He gives us the latest on Drew Brees’ contract negotiation and answers the burning question: How improved will the Saints' defense be under Dennis Allen?

As much as Dimitroff likes his Falcons, we like Hall-of-Fame tackle Jackie Slater. With Father’s Day on Sunday, we reached out to Slater to talk about the raising of his son, New England Patriots’ Pro Bowl special teams standout Matthew Slater.

What was more stressful, playing for 20 years in the NFL or watching his son? Tune in to hear a father’s take on NFL life. Also in honor of Father’s Day, the guys offer up their Hall-of-Fame father-son NFL combinations. While the Mannings are obvious at least one of their choices may shock you.

Talk of Fame Network hosts Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges and Clark Judge also turn themselves into movie critics to dissect ESPN’s marathon documentary, "O.J. : Made in America," a film that is rocking the nation nearly as much as his white bronco ride up the 405 over two decades ago.

To hear the full two-hour show dial in one of our 80 affiliates around the country or go to the Talk of Fame podcast on iTunes. The show can also be found on the TuneIn app or by going to talkoffamenetwork.com and clicking the microphone icon.

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