As expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be interviewing Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith for the team’s vacant head coaching duties. That news was first reported by Tampa Bay Times writer Rick Stroud.
“The names that Jacksonville was going to interview were going across the ticker and it looks like they have a long list. They better get started,” Koetter said. “As far as Smitty goes, look at his record. Look at his record as a head coach. All the guys that are interviewing out there – none of them has his record as a head coach. Every team that is going to interview for head coaches they allegedly have something they are looking for. If Mike Smith is it, then great. Good for him. Mike Smith is a proven head coach in this league and I think the world of him.”
Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Jaguars fired head coach Gus Bradley during the season and have quite a list of candidates. Former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin, who recently coached the New York Giants, has already interviewed. In addition Smith, the Jaguars are also interested in New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, a minority candidate who would satisfy the league’s “Rooney Rule,” which states that teams must interview a minority candidate before making a head coaching hire.
Other possible candidates include Jaguars interim head coach Doug Marrone, Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Under Smith, the Bucs defense finished 23rd in the league in points allowed with a 367.9-yard average, but finished 15th in the NFL, allowing 23.1 points per game. Tampa Bay’s defense excelled on third down defense, finishing first in the league with 34 percent (67-of-195) allowed, a year after being the worst team in the league on third down defense.
“Obviously when we brought Mike here we knew this day might come and that this day would come,” Koetter said. “If it’s the right fit, and he’s the right guy, and that’s what he wants and that’s what they want there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s how this league works. What I can tell you is that I have a lot of confidence in the staff I put together last year and I got a lot of confidence I have in the staff I’ll put together moving forward.”
The 57-year old Smith, who is a native of Daytona Beach, Fla., has the desire to become a head coach again and the personnel the Jaguars have assembled in defensive back Jalen Ramsey, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler, and linebacker Myles Jack, in addition to free agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Price has to be enticing.
Smith is widely respected around the NFL after becoming Atlanta’s all-time winning head coach from 2008-14 when he amassed a 66-46 record (.589), leading the Falcons to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons. The Falcons posted a franchise-best 13-3 mark twice under Smith’s leadership, first in 2010 before losing to Green Bay in the NFC Divisional Game and again in 2012 before losing to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
What led the Falcons to hire Smith in 2008 was the outstanding job he did as Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator from 2003-07 where he was paired with Koetter, who was the Jaguars offensive coordinator before he became Smith’s play-caller in Atlanta from 2012-14.
Bucs LB coach Mark Duffner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
When asked if he was planning on beginning interviews for the Bucs defensive coordinator position, anticipating losing Smith to the Jaguars or one of the other five NFL head coaching vacancies around the league.
“Yes, of course,” Koetter said. “That’s underway.”
Should Koetter wish to promote from within, Bucs linebackers coach Mark Duffner might get the most consideration. Duffner has previous defensive coordinator experience in college and with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2001-02, and he has coached with Koetter not only during the 2016 season in Tampa Bay, but also before in Jacksonville.