EXTRA! EXTRA! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired the University of Alabama’s football coach!
Sorry, it’s not what you think. Nick Saban, you can stop hyperventilating.
In the interest of flashing back, that headline captures the events of late December 1986 when Ray Perkins came to One Buc Place. He wouldn’t last four seasons, falling flat like an out-pattern throw by his hand-picked quarterback named Vinny Testaverde, becoming just another footnote in the franchise’s futility.
The Bucs are searching for their 12th coach in team history, and whomever is interested should keep in mind the number 3.9. That’s the number of seasons, on average, a Bucs coach is afforded. So, no candidate dares talk about any five-year plan.
By the way, are they being informed that the team’s mascot is Captain Fear?
Sadly, six coaches in history have lived in plenty of fear, having been sacked after three years or fewer. They are, including seasons and record: Leeman Bennett (1986-86, 4-28), Richard Williamson (1990-91, 4-15), Raheem Morris (2009-11, 17-31), Greg Schiano (2012-13, 11-21), Lovie Smith (2014-15, 8-24), and the recently fired Dirk Koetter (2016-18, 19-29).
That said, it’s baffling to note that the Bucs coach who lost his first 26 games got the longest rope. Yes, original coach John McKay owns the mark for most games coached (133) in team history.
The Glazers, who bought the team in January of 1995 after the death of Hugh Culverhouse, stomached one last year of Sam Wyche before hiring Tony Dungy, putting the team on a great path. When they fired him after the 2001 season, despite his franchise-best .563 winning percentage during his six seasons, that outrageous move was tempered by the fact his replacement delivered the Bucs’ only Super Bowl the next year. Dungy would win one with the Colts shortly thereafter.
Now, more than 20 years later, the idea that Dungy was let go is more excruciating than ever. Since Jon Gruden, his successor, was fired after the 2008 season, the coaching carousel has been set at warp speed. The Bucs are seeking their fifth coach in the past 10 years.
The Glazers tried every approach. Morris was young and came from within the team’s ranks. Schiano was plucked from the college ranks. Smith was a veteran NFC Conference champion coach looking for work. And Koetter was promoted so the Bucs wouldn’t lose him. Furthermore, he was an offensive guru who was working so well with the team’s new franchise quarterback.
Which brings me to this: Wasn’t it Jameis Winston who was likely to be run out of town a few months ago? How did this become Koetter’s fault? Winston gets suspended and Koetter’s team opens the season by defeating, with a backup QB, what turns out to be the conference’s best team in the Saints and then the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. Remember the energy at that Monday Night Football game at Raymond James Stadium during Week 3 when the team was unbeaten?
Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick fizzled as always, and yes Koetter went back to Winston. But when he tossed four first-half interceptions against the Bengals, Koetter had to bench him. Sure enough, Fitzpatrick almost rallied the team to a win in that game. And then, eventually, it was back to Winston.
But the Bucs were actually competitive in all of their games except an ugly loss on the road against what turned out to be a very good Bears team. Meanwhile, Winston did show some improvement, especially with his demeanor.
Yet Koetter is axed and now the Bucs must compete against seven other teams for a head coach. Let’s hope they don’t go after some pie-in-the-sky big names like, as rumored, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly or either of the Harbaughs. Remember how Bill Parcells twice left the Bucs twisting in the wind while he leveraged better deals for himself?
Odds are, whomever they get will be a leftover from the league’s candidate pool and will result in an ultimate re-set that fans can’t bear. And GM Jason Licht has made it clear that whoever he hires will have to accept Winston as his starter. So here’s my idea: Tell Koetter his timeout is over, tell Winston (in the last year of his contract) it’s his final audition, and let’s get back down to business and make the most of that continuity.
EXTRA! EXTRA! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ former football coach!
Sounds crazy? Well, if you’re telling me that even the Bucs aren’t capable of rehiring the man they just fired, I’d tell you that YOU’RE crazy. Anything is possible at One Buc Place. You don’t know what goes on here! (Cue scary organ music).
And you wouldn’t say that if Dungy or Gruden were somehow the guy they brought back.
Of course that’s just a joke, but you get my point. Enough of the roller coaster. It’s time to get on the stick and stick with a guy and stick it out.
Meanwhile, through last weekend, the Bucs had interviewed Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, Cowboys assistant Kris Richard and former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians – a man who retired after the 2017 season for health reasons with a year left on his contract. He’s an intriguing choice, but how would that amount to finally building a future if he re-retires after a year or two?
What we don’t want to see is that the Bucs become the final team with a coaching opening to finally lock someone up. Wouldn’t that just say it all? Even the Browns are a better gig.
Which just happens to be the team that Arians said a few months back would be the only one that could lure him out of retirement. But when the Packers’ opening was mentioned to him – you know, home of Aaron Rodgers and no meddling ownership – Arians said no thanks.
Huh? So, were those health reasons also of the mental variety?
And the madness continues.