Examining the Bucs' Options for Our Next Head Coach

It's time to have a conversation about a new head coach. Raheem Morris has one year left on his contract. But after today's loss to Jacksonville the Bucs have lost seven straight, and there's a very real possibility that Tampa Bay will finish the season by losing ten in a row. Morris has a 17-38 record after nearly three full seasons. That's a win percentage of .378, folks. There's a slim possibility that Morris will hang on for one more year; the Glaziers have never been known for their spending largesse and Morris is undoubtedly a bargain. But to allow him to hold on after this disappointing of a season, after Morris boldly promised a division win, would be to risk alienating the fans that still remain loyal. It's time for a change. And it's time to examine our options moving forward.

So who's available that would be a legitimate option for head coach of the Bucs? I've taken a look at our options in four different categories: former (and possibly soon-to-be former) NFL head coaches, former NFL coaches currently working as coordinators, current NFL coordinators, and current college head coaches.

Former NFL head coaches

Jeff Fisher


We might be late to this party. At least two teams have supposedly already contacted Fisher about the possibility of being their next head coach.

Pros: In 16 years with the Oilers/Titans Fisher had a 146-120 record, including a 5-6 playoff record. He led the Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999, and into the postseason five other times following that season. He was the longest tenured coach in the NFL prior to parting ways with the Titans and has a reputation for professionalism and discipline. His departure had more to do with conflicts with Bud Adams than performance issues. He still doesn't have a Super Bowl ring to his credit and will want that ring before he retires from the game.

Cons: The Titans only went to the playoffs twice in Fisher's last seven seasons, and were one and out on both occasions. He may demand more control than the Glaziers and Dominik (presuming that Dom retains his job) are willing to cede. As stated above, we may be too late to catch his interest.

Bill Cowher

One of the perpetual pipe dreams of losing teams over the past few years has been to land Cowher, who has been out of football since leaving the Steelers in 2007.

Pros: Cowher is a proven leader with a Super Bowl ring and an impressive 12-9 record in the playoffs. He has a .623 career winning percentage.

Cons: Cowher has always run a 3-4 defense, which would require a major overhaul of the Bucs' D-line: the same D-line we just spent two years' worth of 1st and 2nd round draft picks on. We would need to starting rebuilding- again- to begin to even be capable of running such a scheme. There are other suitors that would be a better match for Cowher ahead of us in the supplication line. Finally, he has repeatedly said that he has no plans to coach again.

Brian Billick

Recently, Billick was asked about being considered for the Jacksonville HC vacancy. He stated "They’re looking for young and cheap, and I’m neither." What does that portend for the Bucs' chances?

Pros:
Billick's another former coach with a winning record and a Super Bowl ring

Cons: He's also yet another coach who runs the 3-4, so the same objections mentioned with Cowher apply. He's got a reputation for being an egomaniac, and declaring that he's neither young nor cheap seems like the exact wrong way to catch the Glaziers' interest.

Jon Gruden

I had to include him, but I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell it would happen.

Pros: He knows the facilities already?

Cons: He seems content to be an announcer for now and just signed a new long-term contract with ESPN. The Glaziers would never be able to swallow their pride and call him to begin that conversation, especially as they're still paying off his contract. He's got nothing to prove here in Tampa. And lest we forget, we fired him only four years ago.

Andy Reid

There's no guarantee that he's going to lose his job- after Fisher left the Titans, Reid took over the title of longest tenure. But the always-polite fans in the City of Brotherly Love are calling for his blood, and somebody's got to take the fall for this nightmare season.

Pros: Reid only missed the playoffs three times in his first 12 seasons with the Eagles. He has an impressive .606 win percentage for his career and is an offensively minded guy who's made it to the Super Bowl but yet to come away with a win. If he's fired following this season, you can bet he'll still feel he has something to prove.

Cons: The Eagles haven't seemed the same since losing the Super Bowl in 2005. Reid has made some questionable personnel decisions (try mentioning the name Juan Castillo to an Eagles fan sometime) and his ability to lead a team has to be in question after the monumental meltdown of this year's Eagles team.

Tom Coughlin

Another coach that may be out of work this December is Coughlin: if the Giants miss the postseason again, Coughlin may have run out of chances in New York.

Pros: Coughlin is a disciplinarian and a consummate professional who would offer a sea change from the days of "Rah". He's a proven winner who runs 4-3 defenses and has a Super Bowl win to his credit.

Cons: He's 65 and might very well prefer to retire if he loses his current job. Then there's the reason he might be fired: his teams have consistently missed the playoffs for the past several seasons.

Tony Dungy

Pat Yasinskas brought this idea up recently and it's been discussed here as a result.

Pros: No one is more qualified than Dungy to lead a troubled franchise by example. He's a principled leader with a long record of success, and his return would be greeted by rejoicing from the Tampa Bay fanbase.

Cons: He's just not interested in coaching right now, as he stated emphatically when asked about interest in the Penn State coaching job. It's a lovely dream, but it's not happening folks.

Former NFL head coaches/current NFL coordinators

Marty Mornhinweg

The former Lions head coach and current Eagles offensive coordinator is considered a top candidate for a new head coaching position.

Pros: Mornhinweg is an offensive guru and led the Eagles to the postseason in 2006 after Reid yielded the playcalling responsibilities to him. His head coaching record must come with an asterisk, as Matt Millen never gave any head coaches this chance to succeed during his reign in Detroit.

Cons: Asterisk aside, Mornhinweg's record with the Lions was 5-21. Who can forget his ridiculous decision to kick rather than receive in overtime against Chicago, just so the wind would be in his favor? He also might have a temper problem, as his recent sideline spat with Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn seemed to indicate.

Rod Marinelli

Another former Detroit coach who deserves consideration is Marinelli, current defensive coordinator of the Bears.

Pros: Marinelli has a long history with the Bucs, having served as defensive line coach (and later, assistant head coach) under Tony Dungy. As with Mornhinweg, his record under the Lions must be viewed with the understanding that he was hampered by Millen. His defenses in Chicago have consistently ranked amongst the NFL's best.

Cons: Marinelli's record with the Lions was 10-38 and he oversaw their 0-16 season. He's a defensively focused coach, and the Bucs may be likelier to look for an offensively focused coach. It's rumored that he's content as Lovie Smith's DC and doesn't have the desire to try head coaching again.

Wade Phillips

Only one season after his ignominous exit from Dallas, Phillips has gained a lot of attention for turning Houston's defense from worst to first.

Pros: Phillips complied a .573 record in Dallas and only had one losing season during his nine years in Dallas. He's amply demonstrated that he has the capability to revitalize a struggling defense.

Cons:
Phillips only managed 1 win in 6 playoff games during his tenure in Dallas. If the Bucs are looking for an offensive mind, Phillips won't be their first choice.

Josh McDaniels

McDaniels' tenure in Denver didn't end well, but he's widely considered an offensive genius- sooner or later, a team may decide to give him another shot.

Pros: McDaniels achieved amazing things with the Patriots. His widely reviled decision to draft Tim Tebow appears to be paying dividends. He's young and driven, qualities that the Bucs have valued in recent years.

Cons:
McDaniels appeared totally unready for head coaching during his time in Denver; another raw and young coach isn't likely the solution to the Bucs' problems. He's widely considered to be the natural replacement for Todd Haley, if the Chiefs fire him. He hasn't impressed with his work in St. Louis- Sam Bradford has regressed under his tutelage.

Current NFL coordinators

Russ Grimm

The current assistant head coach and offensive line coordinator for the Cardinals, Grimm just missed out on the head coach position with the Steelers in 2007, coming in second to Mike Tomlin.

Pros: Grimm has consistently been commended for his leadership skills, and he's reached two Super Bowls (once with the Steelers, once with the Cardinals). His son Cody plays for the Bucs, giving him a link to the franchise.

Cons: Teams keep passing on him for a head coach gig- there's always the question of what teams know about the perpetual "also interviewed" candidates that keep them from pulling the trigger. Also, how's this guy going to objectively determine who starts at safety?

Jay Gruden

After just one year as OC for the Bengals, the younger Gruden is already the subject of rampant speculation for head coaching vacancies after exceeding expectations with rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Pros: He's done great things with a very young offense. He's familiar with the Bucs, having worked from 2002-2008 as an offensive assistant under his brother. He has experience as a head coach- in the Arena Football League.

Cons: Let's not forget that he's only worked one year as a coordinator in the NFL. Most of his other experience has been in arena football. The Gruden connection may also work against him- I get the sense that the Glaziers have already had their fill of Grudens.

Rob Chudzinski

Carolina's offensive coordinator has turned heads this season with his guidance of Cam Newton.

Pros: He's done amazingly things with Cam Newton, a rookie who many considered too raw to succeed in the NFL.

Cons: Besides this season, he's worked as an OC for two seasons with the Browns, before being fired with the rest of Romeo Crennel's staff. That's probably much too inexperienced to be considered ready for a head coaching gig.

Rob Ryan

Rex Ryan's more hirsute twin is reportedly very hungry to get his own shot as head coach of an NFL team.

Pros: The Harbaugh brothers may provide the template for why a team will take a chance on Ryan- his brother's success with the Jets. He's done well improving the Cowboys defense this season.

Cons: In his prior gigs as DC for the Raiders and Browns, he only had a top ten defense for one season out of seven. Again, it seems likelier the Bucs would value an offensive guy over a defensive guy.

Current college head coaches

Kirk Ferentz

Ferentz is frequently mentioned when discussing coaches who could make the transition from college football to the NFL.

Pros: Ferentz has compiled a 96-65 record at Iowa and has kept the Hawkeyes competitive throughout his tenure, leading them to ten bowl appearances, including a BCS bowl in 2010. He has wored as both an offensive and defensive coordinator, and has previously worked as an assistant coach in the NFL.

Cons: With a few exceptions, college coaches tend to struggle when transitioning to the NFL. Ferentz has previously stated that he's happy at Iowa and not interested in other jobs: the fact that he's under contract until 2015 and the third highest paid coach in college football may have something to do with that disinterest.

Les Miles

The LSU head coach has earned a lot of attention lately, leading to speculation that a pro team will eventually try to make him an offer.

Pros: Miles has amassed a sterling 103-38 record coaching the college game. He's got an offensive background, but has made punishing defense the trademark of his LSU teams. He's worked in the NFL before as a tight ends coach for the Cowboys.

Cons: Miles' offensive style is a bit too gimmicky to translate to the NFL. The "Mad Hatter" is a player's coach- and we haven't had that great an experience with our current "player's coach". Miles already makes more money than most NFL coaches, $3.75 million in base salary plus bonuses.

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