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.
SCAVELLI’S PICK FOR HEAD COACH: MIKE ZIMMER
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.
SCAVELLI’S PICK FOR OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: HUE JACKSON
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.
SCAVELLI'S PICK FOR DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: JIM TOMSULA
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.
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