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January 12, 2012 @ 12:00 pm
Current rating: 4.80 Stars/5 Votes

PR Great Debate: Bucs Should Consider Zimmer

Written by Andrew
Andrew Scavelli


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Which head coaching candidate should the Bucs hire? In the fourth installment of the Pewter Report Great Debate, Andrew Scavelli says Mike Zimmer should become the team's next head coach.

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. Next, beat writer Eric Dellaratta suggested that Todd Bowles would be a great fit with the Bucs. Editor-in-Chief Mark Cook sounded off third, saying that Brian Billick should become Tampa Bay's next head coach. In this fourth and final installment, beat writer Andrew Scavelli makes a case for who he believes would be a good fit to become the ninth head coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

The Buccaneers are almost two weeks into their search for a new head coach and based on the list of candidates the team has already interviewed, which includes the likes of Mike Sherman and Marty Schottenheimer, it is very clear that the organization wants to go in a different direction at that position. Tampa Bay seems to be looking for an experienced coach that can both instill discipline into the players and earn their respect at the same time. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer fits this bill perfectly and is someone the team must consider interviewing for their vacant head coaching spot.

If the Bucs are planning on hiring a short-term option like Marty Schottenheimer to help turn the team around until they can find the next hot coordinator candidate that can take the team to the next level, they don’t need to look any further than Zimmer, who can be that long-term solution for Tampa Bay. The 55-year old Zimmer paid his dues and is more than ready for the opportunity to lead a football team after coaching 18 seasons in the NFL and spending 12 of those years as a successful defensive coordinator.

Zimmer got his coaching start in the league as a secondary coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 and earned a Super Bowl ring in 1995, after the team beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX. After spending six seasons in that role, Zimmer was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000. Zimmer then held that position in Dallas for seven more seasons and worked four of those years under head coach Bill Parcells.

Under Zimmer’s watch as a secondary coach and coordinator in Dallas, the Cowboys finished in the top five in scoring defense six times and three of those defenses led the league in fewest passing yards. Zimmer also helped produce the number four ranked defense in 2001 and the number one ranked defense in 2003 while running a 4-3 scheme. Under Parcells, Zimmer installed a 3-4 defense in 2005 and finished that transition year with the 10th ranked defense.

After leaving the Cowboys, Zimmer signed with the Atlanta Falcons to be their defensive coordinator in 2007 under Bobby Petrino. Most of Atlanta’s coaching staff was fired that year after the disastrous season the Falcons had, and Zimmer did not survive a regime change as he did four times before in Dallas. That led Zimmer to the Bengals in 2008 and he just finished his fourth season with the team.

With the Bengals, Zimmer runs an aggressive 4-3 system and completely turned around Cincinnati’s defense when he arrived. In his first year on the job, Zimmer helped produce the 12th ranked defense in the league and in 2009, improved the defense’s ranking to fourth in the NFL.

For that impressive two-year turnaround on defense and AFC North Championship in 2009, Zimmer earned the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award from Pro Football Weekly and CBSSports.com at the end of the season. He also won Assistant of the Year honors from FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw.

The 2010 season was a down year for the Bengals, but Zimmer still was able to turn out the 15th ranked defense despite nine defensive starters or significant contributors landing on Injured Reserve. Zimmer once again turned around the Bengals defense in 2011, leading them to produce the seventh ranked squad that ranked fifth in sacks with 45.

On top of that impressive career, Zimmer possesses qualities that the Bucs should look for in their next head coach. One thing that Zimmer brings to the table is discipline and accountability, which the team lacked for the most part under former head coach Raheem Morris. Zimmer is an old school coach that doesn’t tolerate any mistakes and isn’t afraid to speak his mind when a player is out of line. The Cincinnati defensive coordinator also has a no-nonsense attitude that will help change the laidback culture of Tampa Bay’s locker room.

With the Bengals, Zimmer worked with many troubled players including Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Tank Johnson. Zimmer helped turn those bad characters into good teammates and productive players with the help of his stern attitude and disciplined ways. That may give the team hope that he can also get through to players like Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson if they stick around. Zimmer is all about developing great team chemistry and won’t let any players get in the way of that.

“If he steps one inch out of line, we’ll cut him,” said Zimmer when the Bengals acquired Jones. Zimmer will no doubt have that same attitude with a few players on Tampa Bay’s roster if he becomes the next Bucs coach.

Above all, Zimmer is loved by all of his players, which is why he gets the respect that he commands. This is a man of great character that faced a very tough tragedy two years ago with the loss of his wife Vikki, who was like a team mom to his players, and was able to overcome it with the help of his Bengals defenders because of the great family atmosphere that he created in Cincinnati. Zimmer also is an active member of the community and holds coaching clinics every year to help raise money for charity.

Hiring Zimmer would be a win for the Buccaneers organization in every possible way. It would be a win for the Glazers because Zimmer has already worked with a similar ownership group with the Bengals and he wouldn’t command a lot of money, it would be a win for GM Mark Dominik because Zimmer wouldn’t command control over personnel decisions, it would be a win for the players because they would get a great leader they would respect, and most importantly, it would be a win for the Tampa Bay community.

It is unknown whether the team has contacted Zimmer for an interview yet, but they better schedule one if they haven’t before it’s too late. The Dolphins have already interviewed Zimmer on Tuesday and the Raiders could also be targeting Zimmer, with defensive coaches Winson Moss and Todd Bowles already on their radar.

If Mike Zimmer takes over as head coach, the most logical choice for offensive coordinator would be former Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson and Zimmer both worked together in 2007 with the Falcons, and Jackson was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta that year. Although they did not work together with the Bengals, Jackson was the person that recommended Zimmer to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis for the defensive coordinator position in 2008. With the Bucs, the two friends would be re-united and Jackson would provide Zimmer with someone that he trusts to run the offense.

Tampa Bay would benefit from having Jackson on staff since he was a former head coach and he could help out rookie head coach Mike Zimmer. Jackson, 46, is a jack of all trades, having coached running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks in the NFL. Jackson’s wealth of knowledge would also benefit the Bucs in more ways than one as the team plays the AFC West division, which Jackson is very familiar with, in 2012.

The former Raiders coach first started his NFL coaching career in 2001 with the Redskins after working in several offensive positions for various college teams including Arizona State, California, and USC. In Washington, Jackson spent two seasons as the running back coach and helped Stephen Davis rush for 1,432 yards. In 2003, Jackson took over play-calling duties from head coach Steve Spurrier and served as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Jackson’s next stop took him to Cincinnati in 2004, where he coached the Bengals’ wide receivers for three seasons. Under the direction of Jackon, Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh broke out and became the first pair of Bengal receivers to reach 1,000 yards in a single season in 2006. In all three seasons as wide receivers coach, Jackson also helped Ochocinco receive Pro Bowl honors. After Jackson’s fantastic work with Cincinnati’s receivers, he was ready to be promoted to offensive coordinator again in 2007. Unfortunately, he went to the wrong team in Atlanta and did not survive the regime change after Bobby Petrino left.

In 2008, Jackson become the Ravens’ quarterback coach and helped play a key role in the development of Joe Flacco. Flacco had a great relationship with Jackson and under Jackson’s watch, Flacco became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games. Jackson stayed with the Ravens for another season, helping Flacco improve his QB rating from an 80.3 to an 88.9 while taking his touchdown total from 14 to 21 and keeping his total interceptions thrown the same with 12.

Jackson was promoted to offensive coordinator again for the third time in 2010 with the Raiders. Jackson’s offense finished sixth in scoring and more than doubled their output from the previous year, scoring 410 points. Oakland’s offense finished 10th in the NFL that year. Jackson’s offensive system also helped running back Darren McFadden have a breakout season, making him the fifth in the league in total yards with 1,664.

In 2011, Jackson was given the highest promotion of his career when he was named head coach of the Raiders. Jackson led Oakland to an 8-8 season and their first non-losing record since 2002. Even though Jackson was fired because of the way the Carson Palmer situation played out, his tenure with the Raiders was an overall success.

With the Bucs, Jackson can take all of the knowledge he has accumulated in his 11 years of coaching in the league and help turn around Josh Freeman and the offense. Jackson’s offensive system will focus on Tampa Bay’s ground attack and will play to Freeman’s strengths, using his big arm in the play-action, downfield passing game. It also shouldn’t be a problem for Jackson to put together a talented coaching staff around the team’s young offense as he has made so many contacts in all of the stops he made around the league.

San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula may be one of the best kept secrets in the league, but it shouldn’t stay that way much longer as he is on the fast track to becoming a head coach in the college or possibly even NFL ranks. The Bucs would be wise to grab Tomsula for a couple years to help shore up their defense before he moves on his way to bigger and better opportunities.

Tomsula’s story is one that defied all odds, but through very hard work, he positioned himself to be where he is today. His college coaching career began in 1991 when he landed a job as an assistant at Charleston Southern University. In order to support his family, Tomsula held many jobs such as serving as a night janitor, delivering newspapers, and cutting firewood. After his time at Charleston Southern, Tomsula became a volunteer assistant defensive line coach at Catawba in 1997. Since he made no income in this position, he picked up a part-time job as a carpet salesman and had to live out of his car.

All of Tomsula’s hard work finally paid off in 1998 when he was named the defensive line coach of the England Monarchs of NFL Europa and then he continued his career as a defensive line coach in NFLE with the Scottish Claymores for five more seasons. Tomsula finally received a promoted to defensive coordinator with the Berlin Thunder in 2004 and won World Bowl XII in his first season with the Thunder. In 2006, Tomsula was named the head coach of the Rhein Fire and spent another season in Europe before signing on with the 49ers as their defensive line coach.

Tomsula just finished his fifth season with San Francisco and fans may know him best for serving as the team’s interim head coach for the final game of the 2010 season, in which he led the 49ers to a 38-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Since arriving in San Francisco, the 49ers run defense and pass rush has greatly improved under his watch and has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry in his first four years, ranking fourth in the league in that timeframe. Tomsula has also helped to develop San Francisco’s pass rush in that same time span and played a part in the team producing 145 sacks in his first four years.

The Bucs invested high draft picks and a lot of money in defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers the past two years, and the team needs someone that can help develop those players and get the most out of them. Tomsula is the best in the business and would play an integral role, along with Mike Zimmer, in helping the Bucs to stop the run.

Tampa Bay finished the 2011 season with the worst run defense in the league, allowing a horrific 156.1 yards per game and 26 touchdowns on the season, whereas the 49ers under Tomsula’s direction finished 2011 with the best rushing defense, allowing only 77.2 yards per game and just three rushing touchdowns all season.

Tomsula is a man of great character and is a very fiery coach that also demands respect in the mold of Zimmer. His players love to play for him and he is a master motivator. Tomsula would greatly improve Tampa Bay’s run defense and culture as a whole on the defensive side of the ball if he received the opportunity, and that’s why he rounds out Tampa Bay’s new coaching staff.

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

Last modified on Friday, 13 January 2012 02:05

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  • avatar

    This is my favorite coaching selection so far ... MAKE THIS HAPPEN !!!
  • avatar

    Great article! This the man I want to be our head coach. You bring up many of his positive qualities. He was also a defensive back coach for a number of years which is important in terms of understanding the passing game. The NFL has become a passing league so important to understand the passing game. He also HAS been coaching in the NFL the last 3 years while the seeming Pewter Report subscriber fan favorite, Marty Schottenheimer has been out of coaching or head coach of the Arizona Destroyers in the UFL!?! Exactly, the UFL. What other teams have interviewed Marty Schottenheimer for a head coaching position the last few years? No one. The guy is more likely to forget his name in the next 4 years than warrant a contract extension. Meanwhile, if successful, Zimmer can remain head coach for more than one contract. I'd love to see Zimmer as our Head Coach..The other listed candidates are duds.
  • avatar

    Excellent choices. Not sure hue would want to take a step down to OC but it would be great for us
  • avatar

    I have read all pf the PR Great Debate articles. I have liked some of the individual selections from some. But of all of them, this is the best complete set I have seen. According to NFL.com both Zimmer and Chudzinksi are to be interviewed. I doubt either would do this for a lateral move, so one can only assume its for the HC position. I think the Bucs should stick with a defensive oriented HC and go with Zimmer. Well done Mr. Scavelli!
  • avatar

    My top choice so far of all the named mentioned.
  • avatar

    Like many, I didn't know much about Zimmer until reading this article. I must say, he sounds very impressive and worthy of a shot. After all of the scenarios presented, it is clear to me that whomever the Glazer boys select he will be an upgrade. When you have the 30th ranked defense and 20th ranked offense with both degrading with each game, the Glazers could take a novel cost-saving approach and have no HC at all. What a concept!
  • avatar

    Very good Article; well presented. I like all these choices and this is the first article that I have agreed on all three positions. The Glazer's will still make their decision based on less risk to their ROI. Just my opinion. I have enjoyed all of these Articles on this subject. I don't see how anyone can complain about PR at all.
  • avatar

    I really like the different writers on who should be the coaches. What ever or who ever is chossen they will do just fine. They will have some football experience. For this young and upcoming team. GO BUCS
  • avatar

    ESPN reporting that Phillips has taken his name off the list. Also reporting that Sherman being the likely choice. Please Glazers look at the pole and give the fans(whats left of them) their choice as you can't seem to make the correct choice. Why not pick a proven winner with 200+ wins ?
  • avatar

    This is a good series. Even the names I "know", I don't really know to any depth. I feel significantly better about some of these folks now. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I am on record stating that I thought the best way to get back to the Buc tradition of a stalwart defense was to get a coach from the Buc family that had sucessfully achieved that here in Tampa and my first vote went to Rod Marinelli. I have since then, said that I didn't care who they choose as HC as long as he is experienced and not Brad Childress. However after reading this article, I was impressed by Zimmer's varied experience and his success during his extensive career. Of the three debates on PR for HC, my preference would be Zimmer. I could also take Hue Jackson if Zimmer approved and kept him away from all live microphones!
  • avatar

    Good article I agree I'm in favor of Zimmer and Jackson. Glazers go get them!!!!! Go Bucs...
  • avatar

    Definitely the best of any so far, although I would rather have Butch Davis as the DC but Zimmer & Jackson are definitely a winner. I think the Bucs will be doing themselves a disservice if they don't interview Zimmer for this job. Zimmer is definitely the right man for this job!!
  • avatar

    Well played Andrew ... well played. You make some great arguments for your choices, while I still am more in favor of SR's choices, this comes in a very close second.
  • avatar

    Best suggestion from the PR staff. Zimmer at HC with some proven and fiery coordinators will lead to a disciplined, passionate team. Something we have not had since our glory days. There are combinations similar to this out there, lets hope the GLosers make it happen and pick the right trio of guys.
  • avatar

    My favorite combo and also the most realistic in terms of making it happen. Great job, Andrew.
  • avatar

    Totally agree with this set..
  • avatar

    Amen....this seems to me the best coaching combo so far. Now, Glazers,go get 'em.
  • avatar

    He worked for Bill Parcells for four years that is good enough for me. A defensive minded coach,tough, (If he gets out of line we will cut him) just what the doctor ordered. Now I'm torn between Zimmer or Marty S. I just hope we get one of these guys.
  • avatar

    This is my favorite coaching unit of all the ones presented by PR, although if I could mix them up I would still put Schottenheimer at HC along with these coordinators. Only by a small margin though. I really like Zimmer also.
  • avatar

    My thoughts exactly
  • avatar

    All sound like solid choices but none are going to excite fans initially.
  • avatar

    Zimmer is a guy that should be on the Bucs radar, and maybe he is. The Glazers might have a hard time getting over the failed Raheem era, but there are talented coordinators in the league primed for an opportunity. I'm not completely against the Glazers hiring a guy like Marty, in fact Marty could be a good choice. I think the Glazers hired Raheem in part because he was young and they viewed him as an up and coming coach. They may still feel that's the way to go. It may be several days before we know the answer and in the meantime Zimmer's name might come up.
  • avatar

    I've liked this guy since watching him on Hard Knocks a few years ago. Unfortunately, he hasnt surfaced on the Buc's radar, yet
  • avatar

    Well thought out. You make a great case for all three of these guys. I hope these suggestions get back to the Glaziers.
  • avatar

    This is my favorite scenario so far and one I hope the Bucs pursue
  • avatar

    I like it. Hoping either SR is right or Scavelli is right...
  • avatar

    If we are going the coordinator route, I hope this is the guy. Getting Jackson as an OC would be very nice! - 3sk
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