GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers with a score of 45 to 40. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Since last Wednesday night, when the press release came down that the Glazers had fired Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, my phone and social media blew up with friends, family and even people I don’t even really know asking me the same question – “Who will be the Bucs’ next coach?”
Even the cashier at my local Publix wanted to know. But that’s not all. Standing at the bar at Duffy’s Tavern on Anna Maria Island getting ready to pay my bill after another amazing cheeseburger on Saturday afternoon, with the Chiefs and Texans game playing on a television behind the bar, a group of older snowbirds with a wide gaiety of regional accents was discussing who would replace Smith. They could tell I was eavesdropping on their conversation and one of them said, “Who do you think will be the next coach?”
A a reporter it is my job to dig and research. To text sources both inside and outside One Buccaneer Place. To read every report on the Internet and to basically try to get any direction that the coaching search might be heading. And while I have received a few thoughts, maybe even a cryptic clue or two, the ability to predict who will be the 11th coach in Tampa Bay franchise history is still just a wild shot in the dark. The one thing I have learned from covering the Buccaneers since 2011, along with following the team since 1977, is to expect the unexpected. And that has pretty much been my message when asked about the Buccaneers’ coaching vacancy.
The first franchise hire in team history was an easy one. John McKay was one of, if not the most successful coach in college football at the time of his hire in 1975. He won four national titles at USC.
Next came Leeman Bennett, who took over for McKay after the 1983 season. The former RV salesman had the down-home-aw-shucks kind of personality that an Alabama-raised Culverhouse liked. It didn’t hurt that Bennett had a pretty decent run coaching the Falcons prior to becoming the Bucs head coach.
But the predictability ended following two straight 2-14 seasons with Bennett at the helm. Following a season-ending 21-17 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Culverhouse fired Bennett live during a press conference in which Bennett, who thought he was safe for another year, was attending. I could only imagine the Internet memes, gifs and Vines that would have come from the look on Bennett’s face had social media been around in 1986.
The floundering franchise continued for the next several years as the Bucs went through Ray Perkins, Richard Williamson, getting “left at the alter” by Bill Parcells, and Sam (5-dash-2) Wyche before the Glazer family, led by Malcolm Glazer, took over in 1995. With the hopes of getting a new stadium built in the near future, and this being the first coaching hire, Glazer, along with general manager Rich McKay, swung for the fences following the firing of Wyche – after a 7-dash-9 1995 season.
Glazer and McKay targeted former Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning head coach Jimmy Johnson and then Gators head ball coach Steve Spurrier. Both were huge names, but both turned the Buccaneers down. Tampa Bay settled for Tony Dungy and he, while not the original target of the team, was probably the best thing that could have happened for the franchise at the time. Dungy helped turn around the woeful Bucs and led them to the playoffs in four of his six seasons in Tampa Bay, including coming just seven points shy of advancing to the Super Bowl in 1999.
But again, like the before established pattern, the unpredictable happened, as the Glazers fired Dungy a few day after losing in the playoffs following a 10-6 season in 2001. Bucs fans and the media were stunned at the time, but a bigger surprise was just around the corner.
Not long after the Bucs released Dungy from his contract, the Glazers had pursued Parcells once again – only to be jilted for a second time. What an embarrassment, and the Bucs would go weeks without filling their head coaching vacancy.
McKay reach out to Raiders owner Al Davis to inquire about trading for their head coach, Jon Gruden, who was embroiled in a salary dispute. The asking price was deemed to be too high in McKay’s mind, and it appeared McKay had settled on Marvin Lewis to replace Dungy as Tampa Bay’s next head coach.
The Glazers weren’t satisfied with another stoic defensive-minded head coach like Lewis, and wanted a fiery offensive-mind coach who would put points on the scoreboard. The Glazers removed McKay from the interview process and took on the search themselves, taking a long hard look at Ralph Friedgen and then Steve Mariucci to fill the vacancy.
Still the Glazers wanted to make a bigger splash, and just before Mariucci would turn them down, the Glazers decided to give in to Davis’ demands, and Gruden was acquired in a trade that cost Tampa Bay two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $7 million in cash. The NFL world was caught off guard. It was another unpredictable move but one that would pay huge dividends.
Gruden won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in his first season in 2002, but the post-Super Bowl years were roller coasters, finishing first in the NFC South a few times (2005 and 2007) but also finishing last as well (2004 and 2006). Following their 2008 late-season collapse, which featured four straight losses to miss the playoffs, most assumed Gruden, who had signed a new contract extension prior to the season, would be back, albeit without defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who had chosen to leave and join his son Lane in the college ranks at the University of Tennessee. Once again, the unpredictability in a coaching decision manifested itself when Gruden was fired nearly three weeks after the 2008 season had ended, and newly promoted defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was inserted as head coach.
Morris lasted three season before being ousted following a 4-12 season that included a 10-game losing streak to end the 2011 season. A few weeks later Scott Reynolds and myself were awoken in the middle of the night in Mobile, Ala. after a text from then general manager Mark Dominik, who told us that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly had been hired to take over for Morris. We spent the next hour or so getting stories ready for the next call to say we could publish the stories on Kelly joining Tampa Bay. But the next call was Dominik saying things had changed and Kelly wasn’t coming to Tampa Bay after all. Score two more points for unpredictability.
Former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was the next surprise hire, and we all know how that turned out, followed by the most recent surprise move, the firing of Smith just after 10:00 p.m. last Wednesday night. Fast forward six days later and what many thought, including PewterReport.com, that the promotion of Dirk Koetter was just a formality, and things are still anyone’s guess. Could it still be Koetter?
I still say that is the most likely scenario. However you can’t rule anyone out, including five-time college football champion, Alabama head coach Nick Saban fresh off a 45-40 victory over Clemson on Monday night. Before you call me crazy, go and read the above paragraphs again. If there is one thing we know it is to expect the unexpected with this franchise.
And while the smoke scent is faint, it is still in the air. Earlier on Tuesday, NFL Insider Ian Rapopport tweeted that the Bucs may have interest in Saban. Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud tweeted the same thing.
Would Saban be interested in returning to the NFL after a failed two-year stint in Miami? That is up for debate. Obviously he is revered in Tuscaloosa, makes more money than some small Alabama towns combined, and probably hasn’t paid for a meal in the last several years. But no one would say Saban doesn’t have an ego.
Getting through doorways in the athletic offices at Alabama sometimes requires a push from assistant coaches along with a little grease to squeeze his head past the door frames. Succeeding in the college ranks, and then the NFL, would grow his legacy to an even larger stratosphere. It would also be a bold move that, like Gruden, would rock the NFL world and the Bucs fan base. It’s a move that likely won’t happen, but couldn’t be ruled out 100 percent – not with the Glazers still owning the team.
With the news that Koetter officially interviewed with the Bucs on Tuesday, joining the likes of Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Sean McDermott as confirmed candidates. Odds are that Koetter, who helped the Bucs produce a top-5 offense in the NFL as well as a 4,000-yard rookie passer in Jameis Winston and the league’s second-leading rusher in Doug Martin, is still the favorite. The one thing you can count on in coaching searches at One Buccaneer Place is unpredictability, and to expect the unexpected. History has proven that to be the case time and time again. Especially here in Tampa Bay.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
The bucs sistutation is really now maybe they may get the coach they have been going after a great college career and one 5 national titles. I said why not! I believe there is a chance it may worked. Haven’t said that Tampa Bay was the Bama of the NFL because players leave Tampa and are sucessful at other Nfl Teams. Why not after all these years. The Bucs owners,fans ,players and florida communities would be thrill to have NICK SABIN AS THE MAN TO CHANGED THE BUCS FUTURE-go bucs.but maybe what the Late John McKay try to this time NICK SABIN will succeed.this is George L Hicks who have waited to see Tampa climb back to winning again
GeorgeHicks, can you tell me whih players have lefts the Bucs since the Glazers took over 20 years ago.
I mean I hear people repeat that line all the time like it was gospel, but for the life of me I don’t see any ex Bucs who went elsewhere who have landed in the Hall of Fame.
So go ahead, give it a shot.
Not trying to reinforce the point, but my insatiable appetite for trivia compels me to give an answer…presuming you are asking for names of players that left of their own accord, as opposed to were traded or cut (although I think that may be the point more people have been making – just players not with the Bucs for any reason)….and accepting that the HoF is a very small subset of players in general…I would answer the trivia question with one name any way:
And hopefully John Lynch who went to 3 more pro bowls with the Broncs.
georgehicks, respectfully, I hope not. My gut and butt tell me Nick would be a disaster. It’s different coaching men than boys. I’d be shocked if he came here. Mark, interesting article, it wouldn’t surprise me if it is someone unexpected. Let’s get Gruden back! Lol.
I’m all for that but it’s probably as highly unlikely as Dungy returning as his DC. Chucky is outstanding on MNF and he is the President of the FFCA.
Good Article Mark. I don’t see Saban here as it would be a lot of money and a lot expectations that I don’t see he can make happen. It’s not like many Alabama players are tearing up the NFL. I know at first I thought about Saban; but today’s NFL success stories are NFL Players who make it as Head Coaches in the NFL.
Let’s not hire from within a coach we know has a great offensive mind. No lets do what we have been doing for the last 7 years. Let’s hire another off the wall, surprise coach like Mark was talking about. He can come in and run of McCoy because he’s not his kind of guy. Lavonte and Kwon are too small so ditch them. Next dismantle the OL because they don’t match the system and draft a system QB because Winston doesn’t fit the mold. Can’t wait. Mark, I know it was not your intention, but you proved, with this article, that the Glazers are idiots. If not for old Malcolm the sons would be washing cars for a living.
If Licht and Winston don’t work out by 2018 I would say that’s the last straw with me and the Glazer sons and I’ll agree with you 100%. There will be plenty of other blunders that will reinforce the case (these ugly uniforms come to mind).
How was Dungy’s firing a surprise? There were rumors from 2000 to 2001 of the Glazers thinking Dungy had taken the team as far as he could and were recruiting Parcells. I predicted his firing to friends/family after the Eagles loss and felt the loss of profits from not having home playoff games also contributed to it. I predicted the Gruden firing because of the Glazers’ would be upset because of the losing streak caused them to miss out on home playoff profits. Morris, Schiano, & Smith all had no home playoffs and I predicted their firings as well.
Sorry, sorry but Steve Young was gone prior to the Glazers taking ownership of the team.
Better bone up on your Buc history 76Buc.
I still hear the old lie that the Glazers and the Bucs have always been cheap.
Possible for a three year period of time when Morris was head coach, but not before or after.
If someone could tell me of a player we lost under the Glazser’s over a difference of money, please let me know.
Michael Bennett was lost over the $$$, but he’s not tearing it up or anything…
see above….his initials are WS
Your right drdneast. I thought of my mistake after I posted. However, as mentioned above Sapp and Lynch were mostly a money issue as both went on to success elsewhere.
Picking a better coach is not going to be a magic bullet for this team. Picking better plays in the draft and Free Agency will be.
True. But the “better” players need to fit into a system. The system is dictated by the coaches. Poor coaches equal poor systems. And even blue chip players won’t thrive in situations like that.
I still hope it will be Koetter that is named HC, but this article makes a ton of sense. If the Bucs knew they would lose Leslie Frazier at the end of the year and had realized Dirk Koetter may likely leave also, doesn’t it make even more sense to get rid of Lovie?
Side note…this must be one of the greatest mistakes ever made in the history of business….the Rams paying $500 million to undo their decision to leave LA…
sorry…I mean “sports business”…clearly not all business…
Not really BucWild. The Buc “braintrust” of Schiano and Dominick wanted to give the football player and a No, 2 pick formerly named as Daquan Bowers a chance to start at that position. They felt he was “ready to start in the NFL.”
This is the reason why I tell a number of you people this team had very little talent or players with the heart to play in the NFL when Lovie came on board.
This is just one of many examples I could cite to you.
Schiano’s defense was better than Lovies in the 2 years he was here. This website chronicled that fact after Lovie’s firing. Thats why defensive “guru” Lovie was ousted. He couldn’t pick coaches. He couldn’t pick players. He couldn’t call timeouts. He couldn’t make this defense better. Lets just say he was the “Anthony Collins” of head coaching hires.
Saban would be a terrible move. It’s got to be koetter. Personally I think nick is one of the most overrated coaches in the game. Don’t care about all of the wins when you have more blue chip talent in your front 7 than most teams have on their roster.
The disparity in talent that alabam has to everyone else is why nick will never go pro again. He said it himself when he left the pros last time.
McDermott would be a good choice if we could keep koetter as offensive coordinator. If not I’d love to being in Jim Schwartz. But we’ll see.
Cgmaster, I don’t know if he is an overrated coach because I don’t follow the semipro NFL farm system that much.
It would seem to me though if he has such a rich abundance of talent on his team, then he was the one responsible for recognizing and collecting it.
Brilliant call on that on side kick, too. Reminded me of the Washington game (blech).
McDermott would not upset me but the Panthers pretty much run the same defense as the Bucs which many people say doesn’t work anymore although the Panthers have a legitimate Top 5 defense.
True That Drd. That onside kick was brilliant and perfectly executed. There is no doubt he’s a damn good recruiter but at the same time the A on the helmet sells itself. I only say he’s overrated because of the talent disparity. For sake of reference my team ,the noles ,have been a top 5 recruiting class the last 5 years. Most time top 3. Fsu has picked up 52 blue chip prospects. Alabama has picked up 76. They recruit better than anyone and their practice squad could beat some teams. When the talent disparity is that much, I can’t give complete props to the coaching.
Great, thanks Mark, now I’m nervous…
Saban would be a bad call
If it’s Koetter, then why aren’t they pulling the trigger? I’m guessing that they are looking at a splash hire and if it doesn’t work, they’ll fall back on Koetter. I still don’t agree with this turnstile coaching turnover that is a recipe for disaster.
My guess is the reason they haven’t pulled the trigger is the Glazer have been at the owner meetings regarding the LA franchise. Now they can get with Licht and go over where he’s at and what the next step is.
Yes WilltheBrew, I can see why a coach who knows how to recognize, collect,and develop talent while winning four national championships would make you nervous.
God forbid that we had someone o the sidelines who actually was competent and knew what he was doing.
I can see how someone new like that might make you nervous.
Nervous because he brought up all the other failed coaches over the years…
I know he’s had great success in college, but didn’t he have an unproductive stint at MIA? And told the owner an fans he’d stay around, then wnt back to the college ranks?
I guess they all make me nervous until we get to see our boys in a playoff game again
drdneast – Nick Saban would not make a good NFL coach. Just because you are successful in college, doesn’t mean you will be successful in the pros. Look at Chip Kelly or Steve Spurrier or even John McKay. All of those guys were great college coaches and poor pro coaches. Saban too for that matter when he was at Miami. Meanwhile, you look at Bill Belichick and see that he was awful in Cleveland as a first time HC, but great in New England. And it doesn’t always take time. Belichick was in last place in their division his first year in New England at 5-11. In year 2, 11-5 and won a Super Bowl in 2001. Won his second and third Super Bowl in 2003 and 2004. They might have had 4 in a row had the Bucs not won one in 2002! Progress can happen fast.
Picking a coach is like going to the crap tables.
Every year there is close to a 25% turnover of coaches in the NFL. That’s close to the mortality rate of a combat infantry platoon.
One thing that will assure you of a long tenure in the NFL is a franchise QB which the Bucs may have.
The second of course is really good players who absolutely hate to lose and are committed to their profession.
I mean for gods sake the coach is just leading a football team, he’s not leading a bunch of scientists involved in the Manhattan Project.
Sorry, missed the third which is hiring the most qualified assistant coaches you can find and let them do their jobs. Delegate authority.
Stay away from friends and family members. It ends up costing some coaches their jobs.
It does seem like Dominik’s prediction that Koetter was a done deal has been preempted by something potentially mysterious. Saban’s Dolphins teams were streaky and a ultimately hamstrung by the lack of a good, healthy qb. Regarding how Saban ended up without one, I’ve read Drew Brees’s autobiography, and he squarely blames Saban for his decision to choose Sean Payton and the Saints over the Dolphins. Saban tried to lowball him because he was coming off an injury, and then wound up with an injured free agent, Culpepper, as his starter. Saban came off poorly in Brees’s account. The Dolphins used in-house medical exams of Brees to try to discredit his likelihood of making a full recovery from his shoulder injury. Saban sided with the Dolphins’ doctors over Brees’s, despite the fact that Brees had the best surgeon in the business (Anderson). Saban is a college meganame with a defensive mindset, but there’s no proof that he could get a contemporary NFL defense to run better than Lovie could, and that Brees incident and the way he left the Dolphins make me question his ability to win his players’ trust and confidence. I prefer Koetter, or whatever’s behind Door #3. Saban would be a big splash, poor outcome choice.
russmillerwy; my take too. bottom line it’s a “gut feeling”. I like that Josh McDaniel was interviewed according to the Tampa Bay times. My take is hire josh as HC and let jason also select the DC.
Saban should stay in college or retire~ He will likely have the same success in the NFL now as he did with the Dolphins.
The Crimson machine plays a huge part in his success. He has produced winning football squad after football squad and has the pick of the litter in regards to recruits. Most guys want to play for him because wins and also produces the highest number of players who move on to careers in the NFL. Buy into his system and you can win a national title on the way to the NFL~ its a very attractive situation…But as someone pointed out earlier~ thats coaching hungry boys and not well fed men…
My biggest knock to Saban and the Tide machine is that I believe many of his players are at their ceiling in regards to talent and abiltity. Though many move on to the NFL, it seems very few have as much impact in the pros as they did in college~ like they have burned out a bit on their way there…
Keep Saban in college and away from the Bucs~it will be better for all involved…
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