NFL head coaches fired: Bucs’ Dirk Koetter, Jets’ Todd Bowles

Dirk Koetter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first NFL head coach fired this offseason, followed shortly thereafter by the New York Jets’ Todd Bowles.

Koetter was let go Sunday night a little more than three hours after the Bucs concluded a 5-11 season with a 34-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Bowles was dismissed hours after the Jets wrapped up their 4-12 season with a 38-3 loss at New England.

Koetter, 59, was promoted from offensive coordinator to his first NFL head-coaching position when Tampa Bay fired Lovie Smith in January 2016. Koetter led the Bucs to a 9-7 record that year, but followed with consecutive 5-11 finishes.

Reporters asked Koetter after Sunday’s game whether he believed he deserved to keep his job after constructing an offense that ranked among the league leaders, including No. 1 in passing yards.

“There is no such thing as deserve in the NFL,” he said. “I’ve been fired before and I’ve been hired before. I know this, if look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you did everything you could, then I’ve no problem holding my head up.”

Bowles, 54, was hired in January 2015 after New York fired Rex Ryan. The Jets got off to a solid start under Bowles, who guided them to a 10-6 record. They fell a win shy of the playoffs in his first season after losing a win-and-in game against Ryan’s Bills. Still, many expected the Jets to take the next step under Bowles.

It didn’t happen. New York went 4-12 this year after going 5-11 in each of the previous two seasons, and Bowles’ in-game management became a focus of heavy criticism. The stoic coach also didn’t endear himself to fans who often mistook Bowles’ lack of public emotion for an absence of passion.

Falcons 34, Buccaneers 32: Matt Ryan’s first career catch went for a touchdown and the quarterback also threw for 378 yards and two TDs for visiting Atlanta (7-9). Matt Bryant’s second field goal, a 37-yarder as time expired, lifted Atlanta after Jameis Winston rallied the Bucs from a 31-20 deficit to a one-point lead with five minutes to go.

Patriots 38, Jets 3: Tom Brady threw for three first-half touchdowns and host New England clinched its ninth straight first-round bye in the playoffs. The Patriots (11-5) finished the season as the NFL’s only undefeated team at home, where they’ll have at least one playoff game.

Texans 20, Jaguars 3: Host Houston clinched the AFC South title as Deshaun Watson threw for 234 yards and ran for a touchdown, and DeAndre Hopkins had 147 yards receiving in beating Jacksonville (5-11). The Texans (11-5) won nine in a row after starting 0-3 to save their season and will make their fifth playoff appearance after winning the division for the fifth time in franchise history.

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24: Sebastian Janikowski made a 33-yard field goal on the final play as host Seattle (10-6) wrapped up the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs and a matchup at Dallas. Arizona, which had tied the game with 1:49 left on Zane Gonzalez’s third field goal of the game, fell to 3-13 and is on the clock with the first overall pick in the draft.

Chargers 23, Broncos 9: Philip Rivers and Los Angeles recovered from a slow start for their first win in Denver since 2013. The Chargers (12-4) are headed to the playoffs for the first time in five years, but they’ll go in as a wild-card, thanks in part to a last-second loss to the Broncos at home in November. The Broncos (6-10) careened into an offseason of uncertainty after posting double-digit losses in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1966-67, which is expected to cost second-year head coach Vance Joseph his job.

Panthers 33, Saints 14: Rookie Kyle Allen passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns for Carolina (7-9) before injuring his shoulder against a New Orleans squad looking to the playoffs. Allen, a third-stringer pressed into service with Cam Newton and backup Taylor Heinicke out, also ran for a short touchdown. Having clinched the NFC’s top seed at 13-3, head coach Sean Payton scratched several healthy offensive starters, including record-setting quarterback Drew Brees and dynamic second-year running back Alvin Kamara.

Cowboys 36, Giants 35: Dak Prescott threw a 32-yard fourth-down touchdown pass to Cole Beasley on a play that was reversed by video replay and added a winning two-point conversion pass to Michael Gallup with 1:12 to play for visiting Dallas (10-6). In what might have been quarterback Eli Manning’s final start for the Giants (5-11), Prescott passed for 387 yards and the season-high four touchdowns, the first three to tight end Blake Jarwin. The NFC East champion Cowboys host a wild-card game against Seattle on Saturday night.

Lions 31, Packers 0: Matthew Stafford threw for 266 yards and two scores to T.J. Jones and kicker Matt Prater tossed a touchdown pass after faking a field-goal try for visiting Detroit (6-10). With Green Bay (6-9-1) trailing 21-0 at the half, quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not return after walking to the locker room early in the second quarter, having suffered a concussion.

Bills 42, Dolphins 17: Rookie Josh Allen had a personal-best three touchdown passes and scored two more rushing, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams closed his 13-year career for host Buffalo (6-10) with a win over Miami (7-9). Williams had a tackle for a loss and was part of a defense that forced four turnovers, three by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, in a game between two AFC East teams eliminated from playoff contention.

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