The firing of head coach Raheem Morris on Monday following a 4-12 record for the 2011 season has created a vacancy in Tampa Bay for the ninth time in team history. With the firing of not just Morris, who also served as the team’s defensive coordinator, but the entire coaching staff, the Buccaneers will be looking out for a new head coach and new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Although Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer and general manager Mark Dominik both said that there is no specific criteria for the new head coach to meet, such as experience or a proficiency for offense or defense, it would seem as though Tampa Bay would want to stay away from younger coordinators without head coaching experience as that is what Morris was prior to his hiring in 2009.
Glazer said there is no timetable to begin the search and that they have not reached out to potential candidates yet.
The league buzz is that former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden and former Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher will stick to their NFL commentator roles on television rather than returning to coaching in 2012, as will former Bucs and Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who is a commentator on NBC. Cowher reportedly has his sights set on the New York Giants job, but with the Giants winning the NFC East division and making the playoffs, it appears he will have to wait and continue to work for CBS.
Gruden, who works for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, has adamantly said he would remain in the commentator’s chair, but if Jason Garrett is let go by Dallas, expect Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to make a strong push in Gruden’s direction.
Former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher, 53, is the remaining “A” list coaching candidate out there, but reports from NFL Network and elsewhere that suggest that he would prefer the jobs in San Diego, where Norv Turner is expected to be fired, or in St. Louis where Steve Spagnuolo was fired on Monday. Fisher is a Culver City, California native and played football at USC.
The problem for the Buccaneers is that there are currently four teams – Jacksonville, St. Louis, Kansas City and Miami – in addition to Tampa Bay that also have head coaching vacancies. The Chiefs are expected to name interim head coach Romeo Crennel as the full-time head coach soon. Jacksonville is considering either keeping interim head coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker or going a different route.
San Diego and Dallas are teams that could still have some coaching changes, and with Philadelphia not making the playoffs after an 8-8 season despite a flurry of big-name free agent signings this past offseason, head coach Andy Reid has come under fire.
If the Bucs can’t land Fisher, here is a list of coaching candidates that could be viable replacements for Morris:
Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey
Mularkey, a former NFL tight end for the Vikings and Steelers, got his NFL coaching start in Tampa Bay under Sam Wyche in 1994 as the Bucs’ tight end coach from 1994-95. Mularkey, who has been the Falcons offensive coordinator for the past four seasons, has already been approached by Jacksonville about the opening because Jaguars G.M. Gene Smith knew the 50-year old Mularkey from their time together in Atlanta. Mularkey, who was a head coach in Buffalo from 2004-05 where he compiled a 14-18 record, played collegiately at the University of Florida.
Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski
Chudzinski has been drawing rave reviews around the league for his work with Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton. The 43-year old Chudzinski, who was a tight end at the University of Miami, coached tight ends at his alma mater (1996-2000), Cleveland (2004) and San Diego (2005-06, 2009-10), while serving as the offensive coordinator at Miami (2001-03), Cleveland (2007-08) and Carolina (2011). He has also drawn interest from Jacksonville.
Former Green Bay and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman
Sherman was 57-39 with a 2-4 mark in the postseason as Green Bay’s head coach from 2000-05. The 57-year old Sherman has spent the last four years as the head coach at Texas A&M before being fired this season. He is an offensive-minded head coach and served as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator from 2006-07.
San Diego head coach Norv Turner
The 59-year old Turner is expected to be fired from the Chargers where he has coached since 2007, compiling a 48-31 record, including three straight first-place finishes (2007-09) and two second-place finishes (2010-11). Turner was also a head coach in Oakland where he posted a 9-23 record (2004-05) and in Washington, where he had a 49-59-1 record (1994-2000). Turner is regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game.
Former New York Jets and Kansas City head coach Herman Edwards
Edwards was on Tony Dungy’s original Tampa Bay coaching staff from 1996-2000 where he served as the defensive backs coach. Edwards, 57, has a history with the Glazers and general manager Mark Dominik and has experience running a 4-3 Tampa 2-style defense, which the Bucs roster is stocked full of players that have a familiarity with that scheme. Edwards went 39-41 from 2001-05 with the Jets, including a 2-3 record in the postseason. He went 15-33 in three seasons with the Chiefs from 2006-08.
Other veteran candidates with head coaching experience include: Scott Linehan (Detroit offensive coordinator), Kevin Gilbride (New York Giants offensive coordinator), Marty Mornhinweg (Philadelphia offensive coordinator), Cam Cameron (Baltimore offensive coordinator), Dom Capers (Green Bay defensive coordinator), Richard Jauron (Cleveland defensive coordinator), Mike Noland (Miami defensive coordinator), Jim Haslett (Washington defensive coordinator) and Gregg Williams (New Orleans defensive coordinator).