Remember when they were interested in re-hiring Jon Gruden last December, only to be massively outbid (thank goodness) by crazy Mark Davis out in Oakland?
Remember when the Glazers were considering promoting Dirk Koetter to replace Lovie Smith (wonder where they got that idea?) in December of 2015?
Remember when the Bucs were pursuing Lovie Smith, who was hunkered down in his basement watching film on Josh McCown and Michael Johnson while Greg Schiano was desperately trying to save his job after an 0-8 start in December of 2013?
Coaching hires may come in January, but inquiries, research and planning by NFL owners and general managers often start in December. That’s a fact of life in the shadowy NFL.
Unless a 7-9 finish somehow changes the Glazers’ mind about Dirk Koetter, which would require the Bucs to pull an upset at Dallas and then win at home against Atlanta, Koetter will likely be fired on Monday, December 31 – and perhaps general manager Jason Licht, too.
By now the Glazers already have a short list of candidates to replace Koetter, and at the top of their list would be Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, whom the Ravens said on Friday would be back in 2019 as the coach and the team try to work out a contract extension. Of course the Oakland Raiders were attempting to do the same thing with Jon Gruden in January of 2002 before Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer pulled the trigger on a trade that sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million in cash to Al Davis for Gruden’s services – and a Lombardi Trophy less than a year later.
Here is a list of some possible names the Bucs could – and perhaps should – consider to replace Koetter in 2019. Of course, more intriguing candidates could present themselves on Black Monday when NFL teams typically fire their coaches. Indianapolis scooped up Tony Dungy in 2002 quickly after was fired in Tampa Bay, and Kansas City jumped all over Andy Reid the moment he was out in Philadelphia a few years ago.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh – Photo by: Getty Images
Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh
Hey, if he’s your guy – go get your guy. That’s what the late Malcolm Glazer did when he sidelined former general manager Rich McKay, who served up Marvin Lewis as a replacement for Tony Dungy, and pulled the trigger on the trade for Gruden. Harbaugh may not be worth four premium draft picks and $8 million, but it might be worth a call to Baltimore to see what they would take for him. Harbaugh has a 102-70 mark as the Ravens head coach, including a 10-5 record in the postseason and a Super Bowl win in 2012. It’s interesting to note that Licht and Harbaugh spent time together in Philadelphia with the Eagles organization from 2006-07.
Baltimore defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale
If Harbaugh is unavailable, why not go straight to the heart of the Ravens and pluck Martindale, the defensive coordinator, out of Baltimore? The 55-year old Martindale has coached in the NFL since 2004 (Raiders LBs 2004-08, Broncos LBs 2009, Broncos DC 2010, Ravens LBs 2012-17, Ravens DC 2018), and has taken a very good Ravens defense and made it great this year. He’s an energetic, no-nonsense players coach that would bolster the Bucs defense, which is key in the NFL’s shootout division, the NFC South. The Ravens rank first in total defense (290.2 ypg), first in scoring defense (18.1 ppg), third in pass defense (202.6 ypg), third in rushing defense (87.6 ypg), third in third down percentage (34 percent) and 10th in sacks. Hire Martindale and keep Todd Monken to run the Bucs offense and Tampa Bay could be in for a quick turnaround.
Dallas secondary coach Kris Richard
Richard is one of the hottest names in the coaching candidate buzz world right now. The fiery Richard is a disciple of Seattle’s Pete Carroll, whom he played safety for at USC and coached for with the Seahawks. Richard was Seattle’s cornerbacks coach in 2010, the team’s defensive backs coach from 2012-14 and the defensive coordinator from 2015-17 when he replaced Dan Quinn. The 39-year old Richard oversaw the Seahawks’ dreaded “Legion of Boom” secondary, and is the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator in Dallas this season working under Rod Marinelli, although the Cowboys’ secondary hasn’t been nearly successful.
Washington HC Chris Petersen – Photo by: Getty Images
Washington head coach Chris Petersen
If the Bucs want to turn back to the college ranks to find a head-coaching candidate, as the team did in 2012 with Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, the offensive-minded Petersen has had tremendous success everywhere he’s coached. He helped make Boise State a national power from 2006-13 with a 92-12 record including undefeated seasons in 2006 (13-0) and 2009 (14-0), along with one-loss seasons in 2008, 2010 and 2011 in which the Broncos went 12-1. The 54-year old Petersen went to a major conference in 2014 to lead Washington and has compiled a 47-20 record over the last five years, including winning the PAC-12 conference the last three years with 12-2, 10-3 and 10-3 records. Washington has produced tremendous defenses under Petersen, and his defensive coordinator, Jimmy Lake, coached the Bucs defensive backs twice (2006-07, 2010-11).
Washington State head coach Mike Leach
He’s certainly a wild card, but Leach is worth a look as an outside-the-box candidate. Leach, who rose to fame as Hal Mumme’s offensive coordinator at Kentucky (1997-98) where he developed Tim Couch into a first-round pick with his “Air Raid” offense. Leach is an offensive innovator that could work wonders with Tampa Bay’s weaponry. As the head coach at Texas Tech for 10 years he never had a losing season despite battling bigger schools like Texas and Texas A&M for in-state talent, in addition to the rise of Baylor and TCU. Leach went 84-43 with the Red Raiders, including an 11-2 finish in 2008. He moved on to Washington State where he is turning around the Cougars program. After three losing seasons, Leach has posted four straight winning campaigns at Washington State, including a 9-4 finish in 2017 and a school-best 10-2 mark this year, in which the Cougars are tied for the PAC-12 North championship. Leach is fascinated with pirates, and actually considers him to be a modern pirate, so he would be a perfect fit personality-wise with the Buccaneers. Known for his lively, outspoken ways – and press conferences – the 57-year old Leach would be a breath of fresh air in Tampa Bay from an accountability standpoint.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh Harbaugh has won everywhere he’s coached, but he doesn’t stay long in one place. Harbaugh, who was a former NFL quarterback, was the head coach at San Diego (2004-06) where he was 29-6 before he went to Stanford (2007-10), compiling 29-21 record, including a 12-1 record in his final season before moving on to the NFL. Harbaugh coached in San Francisco for four years where he took the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games from 2011-13, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 where he lost to his brother, John, and the Ravens. After going 8-8 in 2014 Harbaugh left for Michigan, his alma mater, where he is 38-13 but is 0-4 against Ohio State and 2-2 against rival Michigan State. Harbaugh, who is one of the highest-paid college coaches at $7.5 million per year, has pledged to stay at Michigan, so it would be a long-shot for the Bucs to land him.
Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Todd Monken
Monken has head coaching experience before at Southern Miss (2013-15) where he turned the Golden Eagles program around before coming to Tampa Bay to coach wide receivers. Monken took over the play-calling this year and has guided the Bucs to a No. 1 ranking in passing (318.9 ypg), a No. 3 ranking in total offense (416.6 ypg), the league’s second-best mark in third down conversions (48 percent) and a No. 12 ranking in scoring (24.6 ppg). Monken levels with the players and brings a great deal of energy to One Buccaneer Place. He’s a perfectionist, a great leader and will keep the Bucs offense moving in the right direction. But could the 52-year old Monken change the Bucs’ losing culture since he’s been a part of it for the last few years?
Bucs DC Mark Duffner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mark Duffner
If we are looking at in-house candidates, Duffner deserves some consideration – even at age 65. Why? Because the players love his energy and have responded to him since he took over as defensive coordinator for Mike Smith in Week 7. The Bucs defense has made strides this year despite being ravaged with injuries, especially on third down (40 percent) and in sacks, where the team has 36 this year after recording just 22 a year ago. Like Monken, there would be a question about whether or not the Bucs should look for continuity to keep building on what they have or if going in a different direction would work best to help change the culture. Regardless of who is the head coach, Duffner should at least get some consideration to stay on as the linebackers coach.
Former college head coach Bob Stoops
Stoops retired from Oklahoma after the 2016 season following an 18-year run that saw him post a 190-48 record during the regular season and a 9-9 record in bowl games with one national championship in 2000 when he was named the National Coach of the Year, an honor he also received in 2003. The defensive-minded Stoops coached under Hayden Fry at Iowa where he was a defensive back in college, in addition to Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, and Florida’s Steve Spurrier where he won a national title with the Gators. Like Dungy did in Tampa Bay, Stoops has a penchant for surrounding himself with great assistant coaches that have become head coaches. His coaching tree includes brother Mike Stoops, Leach, Mark Mangino, Bo Pelini, Kevin Sumlin, Chuck Long, Kevin Wilson and Lincoln Riley. The 58-year old Stoops has exceled at the college level and after two years off, he may be ready to take on the challenge of leading an NFL program.
Former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio
If the Bucs are looking for a retread, Del Rio, an NFL linebacker for 12 years, has plenty of experience as a head coach in Jacksonville (2003-11) where he employed Koetter, Monken and Smith, as well as the head coach in Oakland (2015-17). The 55-year old Del Rio was out of coaching this year after being fired from the Raiders after going 6-10 in 2016, which prompted owner Mark Davis to pursue Gruden. Del Rio was 25-23 in Oakland, including a 12-4 record and a playoff berth in 2016. In his nine years coaching with the Jaguars, Del Rio was 68-71 with three winning seasons, including a 12-4 mark in 2005 and an 11-5 record in 2007. Del Rio is a defensive-minded head coach that had success calling plays in Carolina (2002) and in Denver (2012-14) before becoming a head coach.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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