With the announcement by the Buccaneers that Dirk Koetter was let go on Sunday evening, the attention now turns to who will be pacing the sidelines at Raymond James Stadium in 2019 calling the shots and trying to get the organization back to respectability following back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
The Glazers, going back to the late Malcolm Glazer, have swung for the fences on a number of occasions starting with Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier before settling on Tony Dungy in 1996. Bill Parcells, Chip Kelly and other big names have been approached as well through the years, and of course we know the Glazers were able to pull off a mega-trade for Jon Gruden in 2002 that culminated with a Super Bowl trophy upon his arrival, but also hampered the franchise by giving up four premium draft picks in order to do so, along with $8 million in cash.
Below is a list of potential candidates that general manager Jason Licht and the Glazers will/could be considering:
Arians and Licht have a history together from their days in Arizona in 2013. Arians left coaching because of health concerns so there is a possibility he may continue to stay away from the field, instead choosing to work for CBS as an analyst and color commentator. Arians, an offensive-minded head coach who compiled a 49-30-1 record in six years with the Arizona Cardinals, is considered to be the immediate top candidate and told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he would be open to talking to the Bucs about their head-coaching vacancy due to his relationship with Licht.
Arians, who beat Tampa Bay in 2016 and ’17, has spoken fondly of quarterback Jameis Winston in the past, and could reassemble his Cardinals staff in Tampa Bay as Todd Bowles, his former defensive coordinator, was fired as the head coach of the New York Jets. Arians had four winning seasons to start his run as Arizona’s head coach, including playoff berths in 2014 (11-5) and 2015 (13-3).
A month a go, Harbaugh was thought to be on his way out in Baltimore, but things turned around for the Ravens in December as Baltimore won the AFC North division and is now in the playoffs behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. The team declared that Harbaugh will be back for 2019 as Baltimore works on a long-term contract extension, but the Glazers could make a trade offer to the Ravens for his services in the same way the Bucs did for Gruden back in 2002.
The other Harbaugh brother – Jim – had a run of success in the NFL with the 49ers, leading them to a Super Bowl. Harbaugh and 49ers management ended up bumping heads and Harbaugh returned to his alma mater, Michigan, where he has coached the Wolverines since 2015. The chatter for Harbaugh to return to the NFL has quieted somewhat after two blowout losses to close out the season at Michigan, but some teams – perhaps the Dolphins – are supposedly considering making a run at him in 2019.
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.
Gase coached wide receivers under Josh McDaniels in Denver and then stayed on to become the offensive coordinator with the Broncos under John Fox. Gase, who is believed to be one of the more innovative offensive minds, followed Fox to Chicago in 2015 to work in the same capacity. Case was hired by Miami to be the head coach in 2016 where he compiled a 23-25 record with the Dolphins that began with a 10-6 record in his first year and a playoff loss in the wild card round. Gase went 6-10 and 7-9 over the last two years as he failed to turn Ryan Tannehill into an elite quarterback.
College Coaches Worth Considering
Caldwell is considered a solid candidate with a wealth of experience in the NFL including stops in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis before coaching the Detroit Lions to a 62-50 record to go along with six playoff trips. Caldwell coached under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy and would get Dungy’s seal of approval, and the Bucs do need a minority candidate to interview to comply with the Rooney Rule.
If the Glazers want to to try and recapture the magic of the defensive superiority of the late 90’s and 2000’s Bowles could be a possibility. However, the 2018 Jets gave up 441 points the second-most in franchise history. Bowles was 25-35 during his time in New York.
McCarthy’s successful run with the Packers ended this past season midway through the year after a number of disappointing losses and reported issues with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy is a proven NFL coach with a Super Bowl rings and actually has a higher win percentage than Saints head coach Sean Payton. He has been rumored to take over as the Browns head coach.
Munchak had success in Tennessee before philosophical differences with ownership led to his departure following the 2017 season. Munchak coached the Steelers offensive line in 2018 for Mike Tomlin.
Other NFL Coaches Worth Considering
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher
While Fisher doesn’t have any NFL experience, he is an offensive-minded coach, a big name, and of course helped Jameis Winston and the Seminoles win a national championship in 2013. Winston was 29-1 as the Seminoles starting quarterback under Fisher at FSU. Fisher was 83-23 as the head coach at Florida State, including a 5-2 record in bowl games. In his first season at Texas A&M, Fisher led the Aggies to an 8-4 record and a Gator Bowl appearance.
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).
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley
With a 24-4 record and a successful offensive mind, Riley is a young, up-and-coming coach that could be tempted to try his hand in the NFL. With a $4.8 million salary the Glazers could possibly offer enough to lure him out of Norman. Riley has coached two back-to-back Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, in addition to leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs twice. Riley coached under the legendary Bobby Stoops at Oklahoma and also under Leach at Texas Tech.
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 11-2 mark this year, in which the Cougars are tied for the PAC-12 North championship. 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.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
While highly unlikely to leave Clemson where he has built the Tigers program into a national powerhouse with three straight trips to the national championship game, NFL teams looking for a new leader would covet the Tigers’ head ball coach. He is an exuberant, charismatic coach who would give a shot of juice to an organization looking to rebrand themselves. The problem, besides Swinney being apparently content at Clemson, is his salary with reports of his total compensation package being close to $10 million a year. Swinney won a national championship with Clemson in 2016 and was the national coach of the year in 2015 and ’16.