In the first edition of the Pewter Report Great Debate, the PR staff – Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook, Andrew Scavelli and Eric Dellaratta – offers its opinions on which head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator the Buccaneers should hire to replace Raheem Morris. Publisher Scott Reynolds began the debate with his choice being long time NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer. Eric Dellaratta sounded off second, saying that Todd Bowles should become Tampa Bay's next head coach. In this third installment, beat writer Mark Cook makes a case for who he believes would be a good fit to become the ninth head coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.
COOK’S PICK FOR HEAD COACH: BRIAN BILLICK
While Tampa Bay's focus remains on an NFL experienced coach continues, none of the names being bantered about by the Pewter Report staff in the previous PR Great Debate columns or the coaches that have been interviewed thus far possess the ultimate crown jewel – a Super Bowl ring won as a head coach. One of those out there that have that pedigree – and hardware – is former Ravens head coach Brian Billick. For whatever reason, Billick, at least thus far, hasn’t been on the Bucs’ radar, but should be, in my opinion.
Billick brings exactly what the Buccaneers lacked this past season, which is a disciplined approach to football fundamentals and a supreme confidence in succeeding.
It was obvious the Buccaneers lacked leadership from the top all the way to the bottom, and while Raheem Morris brought several good things to the table the most important thing Billick would bring to the players, fans and organization is instant credibility. With a resume` of success coaching players like Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and numerous other Pro Bowl players, how could the young Bucs not instantly look up to a man that coached and succeeded with many players they grew up idolizing?
Billick was a multi-sport star in high school in California where he played both quarterback and cornerback and still holds the state record with 21 interceptions (as a defensive back). Upon graduation, Billick signed with the United States Air Force Academy, playing one season at linebacker before transferring to BYU after learning his 6-foot, 5-inch frame would exclude him from being eligible to become a fighter pilot. Billick went on to earn All-Western Athletic Conference honors and was an All-American honorable mention during his senior season at BYU.
After graduation, Billick began his coaching career as a volunteer receivers coach at the University of Redlands, an NAIA program, while also serving as an assistant coach for his high school alma mater, Redlands High School. A year later, Billick served as a grad assistant at BYU and then joined the San Francisco 49ers, serving two years as an assistant in their public relations department.
The coaching bug became too strong, and in 1981, Billick joined San Diego University to serve as their recruiting coordinator along with coaching tight ends. After the 1985 season, Billick became the offensive coordinator for Utah State and took the second-worst offense in Division I-A to a top-10 offense in just two seasons.
The next stop for Billick brought him aboard Dennis Green’s Stanford staff where he served as assistant head coach and tight ends coach for three years before getting his first shot in the NFL coaching ranks with the Minnesota Vikings as their tight ends coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator after the 1993 season. During Billick’s tenure as offensive coordinator (1994-98) the Minnesota Vikings set several offensive records including a then-record 556 points and 41 touchdown passes during the Vikings' 15-1 regular season in 1998.
During the course of that season, Billick’s offense accomplished something that was sorely missed by the Buccaneers in 2011 – routinely making the big play. The Vikings led the league with 52 plays of 25-plus yards and had 22 offensive plays of 40-plus yards while no other team in the league had more than 16 plays of that length.
After reaching the NFC Championship game as the Viking offensive coordinator in 1998, Billick interviewed for the Baltimore head coaching vacancy and was hired less than 24 hours later.
While known as an offensive mind, Billick immediately saw the potential the Ravens had on defense and was open to changing his coaching philosophy to build around the talent that was already in place. During his nine season as Ravens head coach, the Baltimore defense finished ranked in the top 5 seven times, and was a top-10 defense eight of the nine years culminating in winning the Super Bowl against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium in 2001. Billick was able to accomplish this with an average-at-best roster of offensive talent.
Billick’s overall record as a head coach is a respectable 85-67, including a 5-3 record in the playoffs. Why he is not getting looks by the NFL teams with coaching vacancies is a mystery. Some have said Billick carries a huge ego. So what makes him different than most who coach in the NFL? Butting heads on personnel decisions with a general manager isn’t the worst thing to happen and it helps keep both sides – coaching and the front office – in check to a degree.
Billick is a proven winner who has shown the ability to succeed with both offensive and defensive talent-laden teams. Billick has also proven the ability to choose top-notch assistant coaches with the likes of Rex Ryan, Marvin Lewis, Jim Fassel, Mike Nolan, Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith.
COOK’S PICK FOR OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: BRAD CHILDRESS
When it was learned that Brad Childress was being brought in to interview for the head coaching opening earlier this week it puzzled many. Childress struggled to win over the Vikings locker room and made some controversial moves that even ownership questioned leading to his departure. But as an offensive mind, Childress has proven the ability to move offenses up and down the field, and again, has instant credibility for the young Buccaneers.
After an extensive and impressive college coaching resume with positions at Illinois, North Arizona and Wisconsin, Childress was hired by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid as the Eagles quarterbacks' coach in 1999.
The Eagles were coming off a 3-13 season and rookie QB Donovan McNabb struggled mightily in his first season as the starter. But under Childress’ tutelage, McNabb and the Eagles improved dramatically, winning 11 games in his second season after joining Reid’s staff. Over the course of Childress’ six seasons in Philadelphia, McNabb earned five Pro Bowl berths and a trip to the Super Bowl where they wound up losing to the New England Patriots in Jacksonville.
After an impressive stint in Philadelphia, Childress’ stock was rising fast and Minnesota came calling to fill their head-coaching void left when Mike Tice was fired after the 2005 season. Childress interviewed against Jim Caldwell, Al Saunders and Ted Cottrell. The Vikings selected Childress, and in his first season, the Vikings slipped from 9-7 to 6-10. The following season showed some improvement as the team won two more games to finish at 8-8 missing the playoffs by one game. In his second season as head coach, Childress’ Vikings offense improved to 15th in the league in scoring offense (22.8 ppg) and was ranked 13th in the NFL in total offense averaging 332.0 yards per game.
The following season, the Viking won the NFC North with a 10-6 record and averaged 331 yards of offense ranking 17th in the league behind rookie Adrian Peterson’s monster 1,341 yards. And this was done with veteran journeyman Gus Ferotte and inexperienced starter Tavarius Jackson splitting time under center.
After a frustrating season of inconsistent quarterback play the Vikings made a bold move by bringing in legendary QB Brett Favre. The move paid off for Childress and the Vikings as Minnesota won their second straight NFC North title with a 12-4 record. Childress’s offense, paced by Favre’s 4,200 yards of passing and Petersen’s 1,383 yards on the ground, finished fifth in the NFL, averaging just under 400 yards and was the second-ranked scoring offense in the league putting up an average of 29.4 points per game. The Viking wound up reaching the NFC Championship Game but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
The improvement and turnaround under Childress earned the Vikings head coach a new contract in the offseason.
“Brad has done a tremendous job leading this football team and we value the positive environment he has created for the Minnesota Vikings on and off the field,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said at the time. “He has continued to positively impact this team and create a strong foundation for future success."
The following season Favre decided to come back for one last run at a Super Bowl title but the magic wasn’t there. A trade brought Randy Moss to the Vikings and the controversial receiver and the Vikings never got on the same page. That, combined with injuries to Favre, caused the season to implode, resulting in the firing of Childress after 10 games.
While Childress’ ability to be a successful head coach is debatable, his success as a play caller and an offensive mind can’t be questioned. Combining that along with his work in helping McNabb become a Pro Bowl quarterback, the Buccaneers would be wise to pursue Childress to help rectify Josh Freeman’s confidence and further develop the Tampa Bay offense.
COOK'S PICK FOR DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: MIKE NOLAN
Going back to the point of leadership and discipline, the Buccaneers would be well served to consider Mike Nolan as their defensive coordinator.
Nolan comes from a strong coaching lineage. His father, Richard, was a longtime Cowboy’s assistant under Tom Landry and also had several years of success building the 49ers with defense in the early 70’s. Like Jim and John Harbaugh, Nolan grew up around the game of professional football and understands the details and preparation like few others.
As a coach himself, Nolan began in the college ranks working at programs like Oregon, Stanford, Rice and LSU, earning a reputation as a defensive mind much like his father. Then-Broncos head coach Dan Reeves hired Nolan to coach his linebackers in 1987. When Reeves took over the New York Giants head-coaching job in 1993, Nolan followed his pro mentor to the Big Apple where he was elevated to defensive coordinator. Nolan’s Giants defenses were consistently ranked in the top 15 during his four seasons as coordinator in New York.
In 1997, he became the defensive coordinator for Norv Turner in Washington for two seasons, enjoying moderate success. After his stint in Washington, Nolan spent one season as the New York Jets defensive coordinator before joining Billick in Baltimore after the 2000 season, first as a wide receivers coach before taking over as the defensive signal caller in 2002. During Nolan’s tenure as coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens ranked 22nd in 2002 before moving up to third in 2003, and finally ranking sixth in the league in Nolan’s last season with the Ravens.
Due to his track record of success, Nolan was hired in 2005 to be the head coach of the 49ers following in his father’s footsteps. Nolan’s tenure with the 49ers was short-lived, lasting just three-and-a-half seasons before being fired in 2008.
Nolan joined Josh McDaniel in 2009 as the Broncos defensive coordinator, implementing the 3-4 defense and helped the Broncos to a 6-0 start and giving up the fewest points in the NFL during that stretch. Denver finished ranked seventh in total defense.
Nolan’s most recent stop was in Miami this past season guiding the Dolphins to the league’s 15th-ranked defense.
With Nolan’s proven success and his familiarity from working with Billick in Baltimore, Nolan looks exactly like what this young, undisciplined Buccaneers defense needs. Does Tampa Bay have the personnel to run the 3-4? Probably not, but between free agency and the draft, and maybe experimenting with defensive end Da’Quan Bowers as a standup outside rush linebacker due to his athleticism, it may be able to make the transition.
THE REST OF THE PEWTER REPORT GREAT DEBATE:
Monday: Scott Reynolds' choice for Tampa Bay's head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator
Tuesday: Eric Dellaratta's choice for Tampa Bay's head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator
Wednesday: Mark Cook's choice for Tampa Bay's head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator
Thursday: Andrew Scavelli's choice for Tampa Bay's head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator