We begin the new year the exact way we ended it: with a morning pick six! These columns are usually reserved for game recaps and big events like the NFL draft or free agency. For the Buccaneers, nothing is bigger right now than trying to finally find the right head coach.
This will be the Bucs’ fifth head coach hire since 2009 and so far they have a batting average comparable to that of Bill Bergen (for those that don’t know, he has the worst batting average in the history of baseball).
The Glazers have placed Jason Licht in charge of making the decision and have enlisted the help of search firm Korn-Ferry. Ultimately, the decision will be Licht’s to make.
Welp, let’s pick six!
Six Coaches Suitable For Conversation
1.) Bruce Arians. This is obviously the hot name. Ian Rapoport tweeted out Monday that he received a text from Arians expressing his interest in listening to Licht about the opening, despite having said the only job he would consider was the opening in Cleveland. The relationship between the two men could go a long way and let’s face it - this is Licht’s one and only chance to truly bring in HIS guy. If he’s going to put his livelihood on the line, there are very few (available) choices better than Bruce.
2.) Kris Richard. For those of you that have followed myself and David Harrison on the Locked On Bucs podcast over the past year-plus, you know that when everyone seemed to go ga-ga for Gruden, David and I were pounding the table for two guys; Arians and Kris Richard. One of the architects of the Legion of Boom in Seattle and a defensive assistant in Dallas in 2018, Richard has asserted himself as one of the top defensive assistants in the NFL and may be that next “hot young coach” like Sean McVay in Los Angeles. His attitude, love of the game, and no excuses approach to the game is infectious and seems to be a guy that the players will be happy to follow.
3.) Pete Carmichael Jr. Offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints under Sean Peyton, Carmichael hasn’t gotten much buzz, but has plenty of results in the NFL. He understands how to run a balanced attack and for years has schemed to the strength of his roster, not tried to force his roster into his scheme. Stealing a brilliant offensive mind from the Saints in the process wouldn’t hurt, either.
4.) Eric Bieniemy. Another hot name among coaching searches is Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy - and for good reason. Taking a second year quarterback and leading him to over fifty touchdown passes is a quick way to get yourself noticed. And although Andy Reid has had his postseason struggles throughout his career, his coaching tree is as impressive as anyone’s. Teaming a guy like Bieniemy up with Jameis Winston could be the push he needs to reach his true potential.
5.) Jim Harbaugh. Okay, I hate putting this name in here, but people are going to talk about it until Jimmy boy declares that he is absolutely not leaving Michigan. I don’t like Harbaugh and think it would be a huge mistake. Aside from wearing out his welcome at Stanford, then San Francisco, and now at Michigan, he doesn’t exactly have the best track record of getting the job done in clutch moments. 1-9 at Michigan against top competition, can’t figure out Urban Meyer, and can’t win a rivalry game? Not ideal. “But, he got to a Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick!” Yeah, I get it. He also had an elite defense - and faced that Atlanta Falcons who choked like they always do, blowing a 17-0 lead in the NFC Championship. If they hire a Harbaugh, it needs to be John.
6.) Vic Fangio. Another hot name and a guy that has the Chicago Bears defense as arguably the best in football. Shoring up the defense should be - and is - a top priority. No, this team doesn’t have a Khalil Mack to lean on, but they certainly have talent. It would take some time, but Fangio could reignite the glory days of Buccaneers defense within a few years.
Six Things To Avoid
1.) Double Duty. Look, this hasn’t worked in recent years. Dirk Koetter had to relinquish play calling in an attempt to save his job. When he took it back, the Buccaneers set an NFL record for most yards in a game without scoring. Yes, this was a prolific offense but yards aren’t points. Before that it was Lovie running the defense - as in, the worst defense in the NFL. Look what he’s done at Illinois. It took him one year to turn a top five passing defense into one of the bottom three in all of college football. The next coach needs to bring in a staff he trusts to do their jobs and oversee all three phases. He doesn’t need to spend all his time on one side of the ball. Stop doing what hasn’t worked. If you’re making a change, really make it.
2.) No More Asking For Licht’s Head. Look, like it or not, he’s staying. Not only that, but he will stay throughout the tenure of the next head coach. I’ve said it over and over, but here it is again; Licht is not “0-for-2” on head coaches. He was hired after Lovie Smith, who was already given full roster control and the decision to replace Smith with Koetter was an organizational decision to try and further Winston’s development. Say that again; organizational decision. Translation is that was the Glazer’s call. Licht is 0-for-0 on his actual coaching hires. This is shot. As for player decisions or draft picks, the long and short of it is you don’t know the truth. I don’t either. No one outside that building truly knows the working dynamic of Licht and his coaches. Did he draft/sign the players he wanted or did he draft/sign players that Lovie or Dirk and their staff were asking for? Maybe Jason Licht wanted to draft Derwin James but Dirk and Mike Smith were pounding the table Vita Vea because of the system they run. We flat out don’t know. Yes, Licht deserves his share of the blame for the struggles, but the honest truth is - we don’t know what he was actually responsible for inside those war rooms.
3.) Avoid The College Ranks. People love going for those young, up-and-coming college guys. At the end of the day, it’s too risky. When you literally have to get a hole-in-one, you don’t pick the guy that has no professional experience. You pick the guy you trust. You pick the guy that has had success at the NFL level in some capacity. Let someone else take the risk on a college coach. Maybe they get the next Bill Belichick. Maybe they get the next Chip Kelly. Smart money is on the latter.
4.) No Hiring Of Previously Fired NFL Head Coaches. When a head coach is fired, there’s generally a good reason. In this particular case, I’m referring to the likes of Mike McCarthy or Jim Caldwell or Chuck Pagano. They couldn’t get the job done. McCarthy had more than a decade with two first ballot hall of fame quarterbacks and got to one Super Bowl. Call me crazy, but I don’t think hiring a guy who was run out of town by his franchise quarterback is exactly a great look. Do I like Chuck Pagano? Absolutely! As long as he’s a defensive coordinator - which is certainly possible if Arians is the hire. NFL experience is a must, but not a guy that was canned for failing elsewhere. (Side note: Arians was never fired from being an NFL head coach. He was the interim for Indianapolis while Pagano battled cancer then left Arizona citing health reasons)
5.) No Nostalgia. This hire is coming from outside the organization. No internal candidates. That needs to be extended to anyone with previous ties to the Buccaneers. This whole “let’s rekindle the late 90’s-early 00’s magic” stuff has to stop. It’s not happening. Time to move past it. They tried with Lovie Smith, fans clamor for Warren Sapp or Derrick Brooks to be hired as defensive coaches, etc. No. No more. If this team is going to find success they have to look to the future, not the past. Time for a new chapter in the Bucs’ saga.
6.) Don’t Drag This Out. There are eight openings across the league. The longer this search drags on, the fewer options there will be to fill a staff. Now, they need to find the right guy which will take time, but they can’t be one of the last teams to do so. Licht said they’d be willing to wait until the playoffs were over if their guy was on one of those staffs, but I sincerely doubt that is the case. The Bucs aren’t likely to hire someone that will retain Koetter’s staff so you’re looking at finding coordinators, position coaches, the works. Gotta be efficient with the time and make this decision sooner than later before the lake dries out.
Six (Plus One) Staff Picks
This will be a little different, but I had the Bucs Nation staff compile their preferences for head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, or some combination of the three. Here are the results;
Bailey Adams - Bruce Arians (HC): The fit just seems right, as he has an existing relationship with general manager Jason Licht and he is known to be a fan of quarterback Jameis Winston (who is returning in 2019). Arians is a winner, and he could bring the type of culture change that the Bucs desperately need.
David Harrison - Kris Richard (HC), Todd Monken (OC), Nick Sorensen (DC): Richard is young – won’t be 40 until midway through next season. So a lot of people question whether or not he’s ready. And no, this isn’t where I tell you Sean McVay isn’t even 33 years old yet.
But the bottom line is, he’s done the defensive coordinator job, and he’s done it well. Unless he simply doesn’t want a shot at being an NFL head coach, he’s not looking for another DC position.
Evan Winter - Vic Fangio (HC), Todd Monken (OC), Todd Bowels (DC)
Gil Arcia - Bruce Arians (HC), Todd Bowels or Brentson Bucker (DC)
Alex Salvarezza - John Harbaugh (HC): If Ravens are willing to deal him, John is my guy. As far as other head coach options, Jim Harbaugh is my second choice followed by Kris Richard as my third.
Jon Marchant - John Harbaugh (HC), Todd Monken (OC), George Edwards (DC): Other head coach choices; Bruce Arians, Todd Monken, Jim Harbaugh. Offensive coordinator: Randy Fictner, Nick Sirianni, Darrell Dickey, Mike Yurchich. Defensive coordinator: Romeo Crennel, Al Holcomb, Bryan Brown, Kelly Poppinga
Derick Schroppel - Bruce Arians or Kris Richard (HC)
Six Players On The Chopping Block
Although this is about coaches, with a new regime will come sweeping changes. Jason Licht has his work cut out for him trying to reshape the roster, clear cap space, and help the new coach fulfill his vision of a championship roster. With that said, here are some familiar names that may be shown the door.
1.) DeSean Jackson - No surprise here. He never clicked with Jameis Winston, he was a distraction and a crybaby diva in the locker room, and he’s due $10-million dollars next season. The Bucs can cut him with no dead cap or penalty. Spoiler alert: they will.
2.) Gerald McCoy - A mainstay for a long time, it seems like the curtain is closing on McCoy’s time in Tampa Bay. During his press conference Monday, Licht was asked about Jameis Winston’s future to which he said that Winston will return and be the starter next season. When asked about McCoy, he said “we’ve got some tough decisions ahead.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. McCoy is owed $13-million dollars next season, $12.5-million in 2020, and $12.9-million in 2021. They can move on from him with no dead cap space and allocate that money elsewhere - like ensuring Jason Pierre-Paul returns.
3.) William Gholston - Pretty nonexistent in 2018, Gholston is owed $14-million dollars over the next three seasons and has no more guaranteed money left. His $3.75-million next season is affordable, but probably better spent elsewhere.
4.) Cameron Brate - This is a bit of a long shot, but Brate’s extension was very carefully constructed. His six year, $40-million dollar extension had all of its guarantees up front. If the new regime decides O.J. Howard is all they need at tight end, the Bucs can save $7-million dollars in 2019. That’s followed by $6-million, $6.5-million, $6.8-million, and $7.5-million through 2023.
5.) Vinny Curry - A splash signing last off-season, Curry was quickly outshined by Carl Nassib. Curry is owed $16.5-million over the next two seasons but the contract has an out with no penalty after one season. With Nassib making a bigger impact on the field and less than $1-million dollars for his salary, Curry may be the odd man out.
6.) Bryan Anger - After being one of the best punters in the NFL just a short time ago, Anger had a bit of a fall off. The Bucs may opt to move on from Anger at a cap number of $3-million dollars for a cheaper, better alternative.
Releasing these six players alone increases the cap from $15-million to $59.8-million. If Demar Dotson retires or is also released following a tough season, the cap increases to $64.65-million.
Six People To Keep Your Eye On
This is more about the latest news, not so much anyone actually entering the Bucs’ facility to take a job. For those on Twitter, this is easiest. Set your account to notify you any time these guys tweet. You’ll know the latest news the second it breaks and, better yet, you’ll never get fooled by fake accounts. Coaching season and free agencies are the easiest times to be fooled by fake accounts since people are so excited to read the latest news they don’t double check that it’s from the right person.
1.) Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) - NFL Network Insider
2.) Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) - ESPN NFL Insider
3.) Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) - NFL Network and NFL.com reporter, SiriusXM NFL radio
4.) Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) - ESPN NFL Insider
5.) Greg Auman (@gregauman) - Bucs Reporter, The Athletic
6.) Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) - Bucs Reporter, Tampa Bay Times
(Oh yeah, don’t forget to follow us - @Bucs_Nation)