Buccaneers’ Head Coaching Search Heating Up
Although the firing of head coach Lovie Smith on Wednesday night came as a surprise to many, it was clear from the four game losing skid the close out this season that a change was needed once again. Now that GM Jason Licht is the one calling the shots, its time for the Bucs to find a head coach that will lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
That search started yesterday with the interview of Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. The leader of the NFL’s most potent offense (alongside head coach Bruce Arians), Goodwin is an excellent place to start their head coaching search. As this season has shown under current offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the Bucs’ offense is also one of the league’s most explosive units, finishing fifth in the NFL in total offense with an average of 375.9 yards per game. That mark includes a fifth ranked rushing attack that averaged 135.1 yards a game.
Under Goodwin, Arizona’s offense finished first in total offense with 408.3 yards per game, and second in points per game with an average of 30.6. Now that is one explosive attack, and it is spearheaded by an MVP candidate in quarterback Carson Palmer, who’s career has been revived in the desert under Goodwin’s and Arians’ tutelage.
If Goodwin was to be the choice as the Buccaneers’ next head coach, a strong defensive coordinator would be his biggest hiring. A major reason for the Bucs’ unraveling at the end of the season was a lack of discipline and execution on defense. In order for the team to reach the playoffs once again, the defense has to be better.
The second candidate that is scheduled to be interviewed this weekend is Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The 41 year old defensive coordinator is highly sought after. According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, McDermott will interview with the Bucs today before meeting with the Browns tomorrow to discuss their head coaching vacancy.
Under McDermott, the Panthers defense has become one of the league’s elite units. Led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, as well as rising star corner Josh Norman, Carolina finished sixth in the league in points allowed per game and yards allowed per game with 19.2 and 322.9, respectively.
Furthermore, he was one of the few defensive coordinators to essentially shut down the high powered Buccaneer offense under the direction of Koetter and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, as the Bucs were blown out in both contests against the Panthers: a 37-23 home loss in Week Four in which Winston accounted for five turnovers; and the 38-10 loss in Charlotte that ended the Bucs’ season.
However, like all defensive coordinators who become head coaches, the key will be who he would hire to be his offensive coordinator. As shown throughout the season, the Bucs’ offense is on the verge of becoming one of the league’s most explosive units, and should only improve with more coaching and time. But if McDermott is the choice to be the Bucs’ next coach, he has to hire a top flight coordinator that will ensure that Winston and the rest of the offense continues their development. If that doesn’t happen, the franchise will be set back another five years.
Lastly, we have the man who everyone regards as the favorite to land the head coaching gig: Koetter himself. Many believe that one of the main reasons Smith was fired was because the Glazers were too afraid of losing Koetter due to their love of offense. If that’s the case, then that could put Koetter in a tough spot, especially with the defense.
Even though Koetter is the favorite to be the team’s next head man, there really hasn’t been an indication that he wants the promotion. And there are detractors from his candidacy, such as some questionable choices made during his time as the head coach at Arizona State, outlined by Scout’s Luke Easterling here.
But there’s a reason why so many are calling him the favorite: because he’s the best choice for the job. He knows the offense because it’s his attack. He can continue developing Jameis, Mike Evans, Doug Martin, and the rest of the young pieces that will be apart of this scheme for hopefully many years to come. And there are already some names in place for who could be his defensive coordinator: a couple of former head coaches in Mike Smith (who was Koetter’s boss in Atlanta) and Jim Schwartz. Those aren’t bad choices to help turn around a defense that was once the league’s best.
One thing is very clear: if the Bucs don’t get this hire right, it will cause them even more grief and turmoil in the Tampa Bay community. All Bucs fans want to see is their team win. Lovie Smith didn’t win enough, and now he’s gone. Can Harold Goodwin, Sean McDermott or Dirk Koetter do better? Only time will tell.