Dirk Koetter made a strong impression when he interviewed for the 49ers’ head-coaching job in January.
Although he was in the conversation until late in the process, according to sources, the 49ers eventually hired Chip Kelly. A day later, as had been expected all along, Koetter ended up with a promotion from Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator to head coach, replacing Lovie Smith.
Koetter, 57, brings his Buccaneers to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday to face the 49ers. And when CSNBayArea.com asked him Wednesday via phone about his experience interviewing with the 49ers, he had very little interest in revisiting the subject.
“I appreciate the question, but none of that matters at this point, and it doesn’t do me any good to talk about that,” Koetter said. “I’m the coach of the Bucs, and Chip’s the coach of the 49ers. Everything works out for a reason, the way it’s supposed to work out.”
In addition to Kelly and Koetter, the 49ers had known interviews with Mike Shanahan, Tom Coughlin, Hue Jackson, Anthony Lynn and John De Filippo.
Koetter said the research he did on the organization and the 49ers’ roster gave him no significant head start as he began to prepare the Buccaneers (2-3) for Sunday’s game.
“Just a little on that, but nothing that really carries over,” Koetter said. “The fact we had a bye last week, we got to spend some extra time on the 49ers. As far as their offense goes, we played coach Kelly last year when he was at Philly. You can see some of the carryover there for the guys who were here last year. But we have a new defensive staff and we’re playing a different defense. So the fact we had a bye, a little extra. But that’s just about it.”
Koetter increased his stock as a head-coaching candidate based on the work he did with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston last year. He also worked closely with Blaine Gabbert while on the staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars during Gabbert’s rookie season.
When asked why Gabbert has not been able to solidify his spot as a starter in the NFL, Koetter began, “Uh, boy. That’s a hard question.”
Gabbert started 14 games as a rookie, and Koetter now wonders if that was the correct approach. Gabbert began this season as the 49ers’ starter but was benched after five games. Colin Kaepernick will make his second start of the season on Sunday.
“I’m a Blaine Gabbert fan,” Koetter said. “I think he’s got all the tools. He’s a very bright guy. He can make all the throws. Like a lot of young quarterbacks, many times a lot depends on the circumstance around you: What kind of a team you’re on; what kind of a defense they have; what kind of a system they run; how early do you have to play in your career; and what are the results.
“Maybe if I could go back in time and could do anything again, maybe he had to play a little bit too early. Maybe it would’ve been better for him to not have to play quite as early in his career. But when you’re drafted in the first round, you’re expected to be ready to go. But I still believe in Blaine.”