As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to play the way they have been playing, it seems inevitable that Raheem Morris will lose his job. I cannot read the Glazers' minds and they've done surprising things before, but another double-digit losing season three years into a rebuilding year cannot sit well with them.
So if Raheem Morris does depart after the season, where should the Buccaneers look for a head coach? There are many different people around the NFL and around college football the Bucs could approach for a head coaching job in the case Raheem Morris is fired, and speculating abut specific names at this point is pointless. So I won't give you any specific names. Instead, I'll give you a description of the kind of coaches I would look at.
I have three criteria here, and I'll expound on each of them.
- The coach has to have experience either as a coordinator, as a head coach (at either the NFL or college level), or as a special teams coach.
- The coach preferably has experience working on both sides of the ball, but must have experience on offense.
- The coach must be willing to cede control of the roster to a General Manager.
1. The coach has to have experience either as a coordinator, as a head coach (at either the NFL or college level), or as a special teams coach.
Having experience at any of those jobs will have taught the coach one thing: how to delegate. If there's one thing you must do as a head coach it is delegate and allow your assistants to do their jobs. Obviously, former head coaches should already know this, but coordinators and special teams coaches (to a lesser extent) learn to do this as well.
Having experience in those positions will also give the prospective head coach the experience of working together with other coaches he may want to bring on his staff. A good supporting staff is crucial for any head coach, and the ability to assemble one requires a network and experience. Obviously Raheem Morris and the Bucs failed at that when they first started out, as both the offensive and defensive coordinator was fired within a season.
2. The coach preferably has experience working on both sides of the ball, but must have experience on offense.
Having a coach with experience on both defense and offense can be very beneficial. As a head coach you are responsible for the entire football team, not just one side of the ball. That despite the fact that previous Tampa Bay head coaches tended to focus on just one side of the ball. Having experience on both sides of the ball will allow a coach to be more 'plugged-in' to what is happening on defense and offense, and not just one half of the football team.
However, it's hard to find coaches with experience on both sides of the ball. So if that kind of coach is not available, and he likely won't be, then I would look for a coach with an offensive background. There's one simple reason for this: defensive coaches tend to be much too conservative in a game that calls for aggressive decisions. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-short inside opponents' territory, they tend to punt and trust in their defense even with a powerful offense. Instead of trying to deliver a kill shot, they'll try to run out the clock starting in the third quarter. And that kind of game-management will lose some close games in the NFL.
More importantly, a defensive head coach is more likely to encourage a conservative offense - and that will lose a team a lot more games in the NFL. The NFL changes every year, and aggressive, pass-driven offenses are a lot more successful and versatile than run-driven offenses. While the need for a balanced offense will always remain, it is important for a team to be able to score early and often to dictate a game. Defensive coaches instead prefer to win games late on the strength of their defense.
3. The coach must be willing to cede control of the roster to a General Manager.
I do not believe in the one-man-dictatorship model in the NFL. The coaches are there to coach, while the front office is there to populate the roster. Both jobs require a person's full-time attention, and there are very few examples of successful coaches who also acted as GMs. While a GM must work to fulfill his coaches' requirements, he must also have the ability to say 'no' to a coach. Coaches tend to think about the short-term: the next win is the most important thing. GMs, instead, think about the long term future of the franchise. This creates natural conflict, and that's a good thing. But ultimately the long-term vision has to win out, which means the GM must have final say.
This kind of rule also rules out very successful former head coaches, who almost always demand full roster control. Yes, that means no Bill Cowher. That's not a bad thing: no one has ever won a Super Bowl with two franchises, and very successful head coaches tend to disappoint when moving to a new team. There are always exceptions, but think of George Seifert with the Panthers, Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys, or Jimmy Johnson with the Miami Dolphins.
Instead, a coach who will accept this kind of role is more likely to be a coordinator, a former NFL coach with limited success who wants a second chance after some years of being relegated, or a college head coach. Interestingly, a study done by The Big Lead suggests that head coaches with a background as special teams coordinator or position coach are the most successful, followed closely by college head coaches. Coordinators are much less successful, with defensive coordinators being especially rotten at their new jobs.
Keeping my criteria and the data in The Big Lead's study in mind, head coaches who fit my mold are likely to come from the college ranks, or have previous experience as a head coach at the NFL level while not having enough success to demand roster control. While an offensive coordinator could fit, their success rate isn't very high if we go by The Big Lead's data.
Of course, what I would like to see in a head coach doesn't need to conform with what the Glazers and Mark Dominik want to see. In addition, there can always be exceptions for individuals with exceptional skills. Each coach is different and they will have to prove themselves in an extended job interview. But here are, at least, my thoughts on the matter.
Given these criteria, does anyone come to my mind for you?