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NFL Head Coaching Rumors: Mike Smith likely headed for Jaguars

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It seems increasingly unlikely the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will lose defensive coordinator Mike Smith to a head coaching job, specifically the open Jacksonville Jaguars position.

Smith interviewed with the Jaguars last week, and is now the “top guy” on their list, according to a report by Pro Football Talk. We’ve seen reports of Smith’s high position on the Jaguars’ shortlist since December, and those reports appear to be coming true.

Smith has also interviewed for the San Diego Chargers’ head coaching position.

Smith was with the Jaguars as their defensive coordinator from 2003 through 2007, producing some outstanding defensive performances. That’s exactly what he did in Tampa this year, especially over the second half of the season. Add in his experience as a winning head coach with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008 through 2014, and he has a lot going for him as a head coaching candidate.

If Smith leaves, the Bucs are likely to turn to an in-house candidate at defensive coordinator to replace him. Linebackers coach Mark Duffner is the most likely candidate there. While Smith may want to hire him in Jacksonville, too, the Bucs can block Duffner from leaving for any position, including that of defensive coordinator.

Other potential coordinator candidates include defensive line coach Jay Hayes, and external candidates like Wade Phillips or Gus Bradley may be an intriguing option as well. Dirk Koetter has said that he’d like to keep most of the defensive scheme intact, though, so an outside guy seems less likely.