The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just a few weeks away from beginning their fifth head coaching search since 2008, and a Super Bowl winning coach appears primed to make his return to football – is there potential for marriage?
Another year, another coaching search for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Glazer family has hired four different head coaches since firing Jon Gruden, and none of them have found more than a few glimmers of scattered success while at the helm of Tampa’s ship. Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, and Dirk Koetter represent the full spectrum of potential coaching hires — the up-and-coming coordinator, the college coach, the retread coach, the incumbent coordinator. Each failed in their unique ways, leaving the Bucs with few clear routes to take this off-season.
Still, they have to try. The trio of owners – and general manager Jason Licht, should he survive the coming purge – will turn over every rock under the sun in search of the right candidate, and may have already started that process with two games left in the disappointing 2018 season. Names like Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, the University of Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, and Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy will be popular amongst the fan base, but there’s an unexpected candidate who I expect will get a call from Tampa: Mike Shanahan.
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Most readers will know that name without any introduction, and most will have a negative connotation attached to it – I can feel the visceral puke noise that you probably just made. Shanahan has been around the NFL for decades, going as far back as 1984. He found the majority of his success as head coach of the Denver Broncos, a job he held from 1995 to 2008.
Shanahan won two Super Bowls in the Mile High City, and at one point was considered one of the very finest coaches in all of football. Sounds like a great potential hire, right?
Well, only if we disregard the dark years in Washington. Remember those?
Two years after being fired by Denver, the Washington Redskins sought out Shanahan to turn their wretched, broken franchise into something respectable. Eager to continue his storied career, Shanahan regretfully signed on to lead the Skins. After three last-place finishes in four years and the Robert Griffin debacle, the Redskins fired Shanahan and seemed to put a permanent end to his coaching career.
Spurred on by the recent return of veteran coaches like Jon Gruden and Norv Turner, it seems Mike Shanahan is throwing his hat into the 2019 head coaching ring, at least according to this suggestion by NFL reporter Christopher Hansen:
Fellow NFL reporter Ian Rappoport added that Shannahan has been ready to return for five seasons.
So, how does this affect the Buccaneers incoming head coaching search? Will they have an interest in the former Super Bowl winner? Though I suspect most Buccaneer fans will universally say “NO” to this one, I have a suspicion that the Glazer family will be giving Shannahan a call at some point in January.
This isn’t based on any type of source or inside knowledge on my part (I have never had either of those things because I’m not cool like that), but instead on watching the Glazers operate over the last two decades.
If there’s one thing that the Glazers love, it’s being bold and making a splash, be it via personnel or coaching; you certainly can’t fault them for lack of trying. They’re not alone in this regard when it comes to owners – who doesn’t like seeing their team get attention and praise for big, ambitious moves?
Before shipping a king’s ransom for Jon Gruden back in 2001, the team heavily pursued Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher to replace Tony Dungy. After firing Gruden in 2008, they chased after Nick Saban and then did so again after firing Raheem Morris. After firing Greg Schiano, they went after and acquired the biggest name on the market in Lovie Smith. Last off-season they reportedly kicked the tires on a potential reunion with Jon Gruden.
There are almost certainly tons of untold stories about pursuits of other high profile coaches, and with attendance dwindling I think that 2019 will see the ownership family once again swing for the fences.
From the perspective of the Glazers, the 66-year-old Shanahan may offer what Tom Coughlin did for the Jaguars owner this off-season, which is a sense of stability, and a person who can help as both a football mind and executive in the front office.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Many have noted the Buccaneers lack of football minds in the Buccaneers front office, so perhaps the team would seek out Shanahan for a role of that nature. This, of course, works much better in theory than practice though, as Coughlin has done nothing tangible to improve the Jaguars organizational culture.
Shanahan is not entirely without his appeal, though. Jon Gruden’s offense gets a lot of hype for some reason, but it’s Shanahan who can find his offensive philosophy spread popularly around the league.
Three members of his 2008 Washington staff are coaching offenses in the league right now, including Sean McVay with the Rams and Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. McVay’s success goes without saying, and though the Niners have underperformed, the young Shanahan’s style of offense works brilliantly with the right personnel, which he showed off in Atlanta when they went to the Super Bowl.
If the Buccaneers wanted to, they could argue that those successes and philosophies can be traced back to Old Man Shanahan himself. Nobody can find the next McVay, but they can find the guy who tutored McVay. They missed out on Kyle Shanahan, but what about his dad?
The Glazer boys will be looking for a breath of fresh air regarding offensive philosophy, and going from Koetter’s air-raid attack to a more balanced west-coast offense may be appealing to them.
Going further, the Shanahan affect, and his famed zone-blocking scheme would likely do wonders for the last place Buccaneer running game; between 1985 and 2008, Shanahan had seven different running backs go over 1000 yards rushing on the season, and all of his disciples have maintained a similar level of success running the ball.
The risks of hiring Shanahan are apparent. The modern game has changed quite a bit since 2008, and there are zero guarantees that the veteran coach can adapt to those changes. Mike Smith couldn’t. Lovie Smith couldn’t.
Past success with coaching is not an indicator of future success, as the Buccaneers have learned. Sure, plenty of his acolytes have managed to improve and adapt his offense to a modern setting, but can the Shanahan himself do it? Can he recognize talent in this new age of football?
There are also questions about how well Shanahan can keep a locker room together after the complete disaster that took place in Washington (though, in fairness, Washington is a beast that cannot be tamed by any living coach as long as Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder are in place.)
What do you think about the upcoming coaching search, Buccaneers fans? Are you opposed to bringing in Mike Shanahan as either a coach or an executive (or both?) Was the collapse in Washington enough to keep Shanahan on the sidelines once and for all? Sound off in the comments and give some of your favorite candidates for the job!