Why Don't People Want to Coach for Tampa Bay?

Hello all, I'm an Arizona Cardinals fan. I also live in Pennsylvania. However, that quixotic combination hasn't stopped me from observing what is happening around the league, especially with a team like the Bucs. I asked myself: how do they win without a star quarterback or overwhelming defense? What is it they do so well that led them to a 10-6 record in 2010? It seemed improbable, like one of those feel-good Christmas stories you hear about when the hero of the story experiences a happy ending against all odds.

Truth be told, the 2010 Bucs team was something special. And the 2011 team had a chance to be something special, as well. After their week 9 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs were 4-4. They weren't in the forefront of the playoff race, but they still had a chance at it. Their schedule was tough, but they showed all the signs of a team still in the fight, as Josh Freeman and LaGarrette Blount both had strong performances against the New Orleans Saints. Then, something happened: the team signed Albert Haynesworth.

Now, let's be clear about what this means. Haynesworth, more than any other defensive player I'm aware of, had a significant impact in his team's win-loss record during the regular season. The New England Patriots were 5-3 with him and 8-0 without him. So kudos to Bill Belichik for figuring it out. Raheem Morris, however, wasn't so lucky. After acquiring Haynesworth on waivers, the Bucs went 0-8, finishing out the season 4-12.

Part of the blame should rightfully go on Morris for starting Haynesworth (who had no sacks in 2011) in 6 games and playing him in another. However, that doesn't really tell the whole story. Blaming him for a team's ineffectiveness is easy to do because everywhere he's been, the team has not lived up to its true potential. The Redskins went 5-11 with him in 2010, and they went 4-12 with him in 2009. Since leaving the Tennessee Titans, Haynesworth has been bad news for every team he's been on.

Seen in this light, the Bucs' firing of Raheem Morris doesn't quite address the whole issue. As has already been pointed out, Chip Kelly isn't the first coaching candidate to decline the offer to coach. I believe this is because, in the NFL, not only do the coaches have to impress the team, but the team has to impress the coach. When coaches are hired and fired so often so to make the system resemble a revolving door, coaches often stay with a good thing while they have it. Steve Spurrier's foray into Washington and Bobby Petrino's year with the Atlanta Falcons just didn't work out. Pete Carroll, despite winning at everything at USC, has logged two losing seasons in Seattle thus far. Consequently, in the search for a head coach, the Bucs need to impress upon their coaching candidate the willingness of the organization to put forward a winning team. On the surface, it doesn't appear that this is the case.

Jon Gruden won a super bowl for the Bucs in 2002 (against his former team, the Oakland Raiders), but was fired after seven seasons. He posted a 9-7 record in his last year. He did so with Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese splitting time at quarterback. It should be noted here that the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in 2008 after posting a 9-7 record that year; they won a lackluster NFC West and went on in the playoffs to defeat Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia. The team had a lead in the last two minutes of the game until Ben Roethlisberger drove down the field and threw the deciding touchdown to Plaxico Burress.

My purpose in mentioning this is to illustrate that a team which had a mediocre regular season can explode in the playoffs if they are coached correctly. This is currently what we've seen from the New York Giants, who have won three games on the road, just as they did in their Super Bowl winning year of 2007. Furthermore, in his first three years with the Giants, Tom Coughlin produced a 25-23 record, one of those seasons (his first in New York) being a 6-10 record. He visited the playoffs twice, but did not win a playoff game. The Mara family in New York stuck with Coughlin, however, and he has rewarded them with a second super bowl appearance in five years.

So, to answer my original question: why doesn't anyone want to coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs? It might simply be that the organization hasn't often shown a willingness to stick with a good thing through tough times, or, as in the case of the 2011 season, to recognize the many factors at work that prevented the team from reaching its full potential. Tampa Bay is a great sports town with a ton of potential on their NFL team, but unless the ownership is willing to stand pat and let things develop over time, the long-hoped for super bowl return won't happen for Bucs fan, or Bucs coaches.

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