Things have been very quiet on the Bucs' head coaching front. They apparently interviewed Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, but other than that it's been very quiet. Maybe a little too quiet.
I think there's two possible scenarios going on right now: either the Bucs are already locked into Dirk Koetter being their head coach or they have a surprise big name candidate up their sleeve that they are keeping secret.
Remember back in 2012 after the Bucs had fired Raheem Morris? Remember the uninspiring names that were mentioned in the media? Names like Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Sherman, and Brad Childress. Then it started to get very quiet. Out of nowhere, the Bucs were on the verge of signing the most explosive offensive coach in college football, Chip Kelly, to be their head coach. Obviously, that didn't work out, and the Bucs settled on another name no one had talked about in Greg Schiano, but the fact remains, the Glazers aimed big.
Why wouldn't they aim big again?
Unlike their coaching searches in 2009, 2012, and 2014, the Bucs actually have something attractive to sell this time around. Having a franchise quarterback with the potential of Jameis Winston should be enough to attract some of the biggest names. When you add in high draft picks this season and over $50 million in cap space, the Bucs have one of the most attractive open jobs in the NFL over the past few seasons.
So, why settle on an offensive coordinator who has never been a head coach before? Well, there are plenty of good reasons, and it's not necessarily a bad idea if that's the angle they take.
On the other side of the argument, why not aim high, knowing that Koetter is still there for you as a legitimate backup plan?
The Bucs MUST get this right.
Jason Licht MUST get this right. Remember, Licht said he was the one leading the search, but that does not mean the Glazers won't be involved. For Licht, it's important to get the right guy and not just the safe guy. Licht's career as a general manager may be on the line with this hire, so why just settle for the unproven guy in Koetter?
So, if the Bucs may be swinging for the fences in private, who might be some of the names they'd go after? Chip Kelly came out of the blue in 2012, so who might come out of nowhere, this time around?
Also, a good thing to remember, is that these big name coaches, especially in college, would never want this type of rumor leaking out, which is why these type of candidates would remain secrets until the time came to make it official. The Chip Kelly rumor surfaced just hours before the Bucs were going to make it official...and then he turned them down.
I think a secret candidate could start with Jon Gruden. While I think Tony Dungy is done with coaching, I believe there will be a day when Gruden is back on the sidelines. I also believe the blood between Gruden and the Glazers isn't near as bad as some make it out to be. Like many others, I too have heard the rumors that the Glazers have called Gruden during other coaching searches, most notably in 2014, but Gruden politely declined. If the Glazers called again and pitched the value of their organization mentioned above, could the prospect of coaching Jameis Winston be enough to pry Gruden away from his cushy job in TV?
Speaking of TV, what about Bill Cowher? He's been out of the game a long time, but he would still be one hell of a leader to the Bucs organization. Cowher would want control, and I think Jason Licht would be willing to give up his final say for the right candidate. Cowher would also put together his old Steelers coaching staff as Ken Whisenhunt, Dick LeBeau, Ray Horton, and others could all be available to him. Cowher would be the CEO of the football team that the Bucs haven't had in years.
As mentioned before, sometimes these secret candidates have to remain secret due to their current jobs. This is the case for college coaches who are right in the final stretch before signing day. If word leaked that they might want to go to the NFL, they might see a mass exodus of committments go to other schools. So, secrecy is key, and why we didn't hear about Chip Kelly until the final hour. Could any of these college coaches be targets of the Glazers:
Nick Saban (Alabam): Saban is preparing for the National Championship Game on Monday night, but is there really anything left for him to prove? Well, perhaps he wants to win the most championships in college football history, but maybe he wants to give the NFL one last try. Saban is 64 years old and his window is closing on a chance to return to the NFL. Saban did say eearlier this year that he may still be in Miami had the team signed Drew Brees. Maybe the possibility to coach Jameis Winston is the attractive selling point, that and money of course!
Jim Harbaugh (Michigan): What if Harbaugh felt he was pushed out of the NFL because of Trent Baalke in San Francisco, and just likes the NFL lifestyle much better? Harbaugh could remain at Michigan for the next 25 years, but maybe the chance to coach Jameis Winston gives him the idea that he can finally achieve the goal he came so close to numerous times in San Francisco...a Super Bowl.
Urban Meyer (Ohio State): Meyer loves spending time with his family, but as a college coach, recruiting calls for much travel during the year. Sure, being an NFL coach requires many long days and hours, but being in an office in a city is much different than being on the road. Has Urban proved enough in college and ready to see if his high-powered offense is a fit in the NFL? Would he want to return to the state of Florida?
David Shaw (Stanford): Shaw has been courted for quite some time to the NFL. He has continually said he is happy at Stanford as that is where he has coached, and it is where he played. However, Shaw was also the coach who recruited Jameis Winston heavily at Stanford and came very close to getting Winston to pass on FSU and join the Cardinal. What if Shaw wants a chance to coach Jameis Winston now, since he didn't get the opportunity before? What if Shaw has just been waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, and Winston is that opportunity?
Jim Mora Jr. (UCLA): The positive with Jim Mora Jr. is that he has NFL head coaching experience already, so a jump to the pros wouldn't be as uncertain as it would be for someone who has never coached in the NFL. Much like Pete Carroll, Mora failed as an NFL head coach a couyple times before with the Falcons and Seahawks, but has had tremendous success in college at UCLA. Mora brings a charisma and personality, much in the same way Carroll does. If Mora was able to grow as a coach at UCLA, he may be ready to come back to the NFL where he had spent the previous 25 years before joining the Bruins. At 54 years old, there may not be many opprtunities to return to the NFL left for Mora.
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M): You know, before this past season, Sumlin was one of the top college names associated with NFL jobs. His high-powered offense has been on display since he was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma to his 12-1 record at Houston in 2011, and through the last few years at Texas A&M. Sumlin helped Mike Evans become one of the biggest playmakers in college football as well. Recent transgressions at Texas A&M with players leaving and such an erratic 2015 season, may have colled off his name with the NFL for the time being. Jameis Winston in this offense would be fun though!
Jimbo Fisher (FSU): Yes, I know Jimbo Fisher coached Jameis Winston in college, but I'm not that overwhelmed with him as an overall head coach. I think he's a hell of a recruiter, and the talent he brings in is amazing, but I believe even FSU fans would agree that his decisions on game day can be questionable. With that said, nothing would surprise me with the Glazers.