The Buccaneers have gotten themselves all too familiar with Black Monday over the years.
Prior to the hiring of Bruce Arians in 2019, the Bucs cycled through four different regimes after Jon Gruden’s departure in 2009 – Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter. Arians bringing stability, both thanks to his own performance and his top-tier staff, en route to multiple playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win has been a breath of fresh air.
While Tampa could very well forge yet another deep playoff run this season, it’s hard to ignore the gathering storm that is the NFL hiring cycle. We’re all unfamiliar with the attention, but both of the team’s coordinators – Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles – are receiving major interest from several teams with an open seat at the main controls.
Another Super Bowl run would likely derail that interest, seeing how most teams prefer to have staffs in place by then, but an early exit would add only more fuel to the fire. In the event that the Bucs lose Leftwich and/or Bowles, who might Arians look to as replacements? We’ll run down some options.
Harold Goodwin – Buccaneers Assistant Head Coach / Run Game Coordinator
There is historical precedent for this exact setup seeing how Goodwin is one of Arians’ most loyal assistants. The two have coached together for 11 years, from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis to Arizona to Tampa, with Goodwin serving as Arizona’s offensive coordinator from 2013-17.
He didn’t call plays – that fell to Arians, and the responsibility might be delegated once again – but a lot goes into the role beyond that and he’s clearly trusted. He helped the Cardinals produce some of the best offenses in franchise history, and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Chad O’Shea – Browns Pass Game Coordinator / Wide Receivers Coach
Our first candidate that’s not in-house, an O’Shea hiring would lean on the Brady connection instead. O’Shea worked with Brady for 9 years as New England’s wide receivers coach, and he helped to maximize a receiver room largely devoid of top-tier talent while taking part in multiple championship runs.
He got his first chance as an offensive coordinator with Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins in 2019, but lasted only one year. He reportedly attempted to implement New England’s offense but it proved difficult for the roster to fully comprehend.
It’s worth noting that Miami’s best players that year were Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker. That’s it. So it’s safe to say he’d have a much better cast to work with in Tampa Bay. O’Shea’s familiarity with Brady would likely lead to an easier transition into the hybrid scheme the latter, Arians and Leftwich have devised.
Kevin Garver – Buccaneers Wide Receiver Coach
This one might be a bit premature, but there’s a lot of hopefulness surrounding Tampa’s 34-year-old receivers coach. He’s been with Arians since Arizona, where he also coached wideouts and worked with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Christian Kirk. He also learned under Nick Saban as an assistant at Alabama.
Oh yeah, he’s been working with the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown since being in Tampa as well.
Named to The Athletic’s 40 Under 40 rising stars list in 2020, Garver has garnered praise from Arians and even the immortal Tom Moore, who suggested the young coach to Arians in the first place.
While it’s definitely a risk promoting a young coach to be a first-time offensive coordinator for a team in the thick of its competitive window, Arians might feel comfortable working with Garver and Brady to find a balance that works.
Kacy Rodgers – Buccaneers Defensive Line Coach
Rodgers is universally hailed as one of the league’s best defensive line coaches, as he earned the John Teerlinck Defensive Line Coach of the Year honors in 2020 – an annual award presented to the league’s top defensive line coach, as voted on by coaches across the league.
He’s overseen the growth of a dominant front 7 in Tampa, ranking as the best run-stopping unit twice and third overall this year.
He has prior experience as a defensive coordinator, serving in the role for the New York Jets from 2015-18 when Bowles was their head coach. Bowles largely maintained playcalling duties during this time, and the rosters were hardly worth writing home about, but even still the Jets defended the run well and generated decent sack numbers.
Second chances can often go better for coordinators, and Rodgers would likely keep similar ideas in place, which would make a severe dropoff less likely.
James Bettcher – 49ers Senior Defensive Assistant / Run Game Specialist
Bettcher is another name from Arians’s past life. They worked together with the Colts in 2012, and Arians brought Bettcher over to Arizona to serve as outside linebackers coach before replacing Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator from 2015-2017. He oversaw units ranked in the NFL’s top six in each of his three seasons running Arizona’s defense.
He’s helped DeMeco Ryans this year adjust to being a first-time defensive coordinator, and San Francisco’s defense has been rock solid as a result. It ranks top 10 in points allowed and third in total yards.
Bettcher seems like an excellent outside candidate who will be looking for another shot to lead a top unit after a disappointing two-year stint with the Giants from 2018-19.
Mike Caldwell, Buccaneers Inside Linebackers Coach
A long-time player-turned-assistant who has worked with both Arians and Bowles over the last 10 years, Caldwell has tutored some of the most high-profile linebackers in the game as a position coach.
He’s helped to bring along Devin White and keep Lavonte David as a top-tier name, and he’s also worked with the likes of Demario Davis, Karlos Dansby, DeMeco Ryans and Avery Williamson. He was an assistant head coach to Bowles in New York, showing he’s closely learned from the mad scientist himself.
Having now spent more than 13 years as an NFL assistant, Caldwell might just have an interest in taking on a bigger role if offered to him.