Bucs still looking for OC to lead post-Tom Brady offense
Tuesday marks 26 days since the Bucs fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and they still have not named a replacement.
It’s not for a lack of looking, as Tampa Bay has interviewed 10 candidates, with most of them remaining in play as the NFL still has a slew of offensive coordinator jobs open. There are seven spots if you count the Eagles‘ opening created with the Colts hiring Shane Steichen as their new head coach Tuesday.
That leaves only Arizona still looking for a head coach, and with Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon in talks there, the remaining offensive coordinator jobs could start filling quickly this week.
Of those seven, four of them — the Cardinals, Colts, Broncos and Panthers — will be under newly hired head coaches, and those jobs carry a certain long-term stability with the expectation of multiple years before a new head coach would be in real jeopardy of being fired. Of the openings under returning head coaches, the Eagles is almost certainly the best, though there’s a good possibility that quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson could be promoted to take Steichen’s old job.
The Ravens hired Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken on Tuesday, so the Bucs lost out on a candidate who had interviewed with Tampa after holding the same job for the Bucs under Dirk Koetter.
That leaves two OC jobs under returning head coaches — the Commanders and Bucs. Washington and Tampa Bay are in much the same situation, with young, unproven quarterbacks in the Bucs’ Kyle Trask and the Commanders’ Sam Howell and the chance of a mid-range veteran signing with either team. Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation — about $55 million over the cap right now — and the potential for Todd Bowles not returning if the first year without Tom Brady is a disappointment might give candidates with good options some hesitation about coming to the Bucs.
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But of the 10 candidates Tampa has talked to, eight are arguably still in play, with Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher opting to return to Cincinnati after two interviews with the Bucs. Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales, who was expected to interview with the Bucs on Tuesday, had been in contention for the Ravens’ job that went to Monken.
The Bucs and Panthers are both interested in Rams tight ends coach Thomas Brown, who is scheduled for second interviews with the Bucs on Wednesday and the Panthers on Thursday. Jaguars passing game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had interviews with Tampa Bay and Carolina as well, though he hasn’t been mentioned for second interviews with either team.
Saints quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry, who has interviewed with the Bucs, has been linked to Denver, where he would be reunited with new Broncos coach Sean Payton. The league’s coaching searches remain very fluid — the Bucs on Monday interviewed Scottie Montgomery, who less than a week ago accepted a job with the Lions as their assistant head coach and running backs coach, and he likely wouldn’t entertain a new job a week after being hired unless he felt he had a real chance to get it.
Much the same way, Klint Kubiak, among the first candidates to interview with the Bucs, was reportedly hired by the Texans as their run game coordinator (a lesser job) but that report was quickly amended to say the two sides were close in talks, suggesting he was still in play elsewhere. The Bucs also talked to Giants quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney, who in theory could be promoted if offensive coordinator Mike Kafka gets the Arizona job, where he’s among the finalists.
All that adds up to a lot of different dominos falling to impact who’s available for the Bucs, which would help explain why they’ve cast such a wide net in interviewing so many candidates. There’s a decent chance, based on their most recent interviews, that their hire will be a first-time offensive coordinator and perhaps a first-time playcaller, which brings both upside but also the chance that a new offense might not click as quickly.
The new offensive coordinator would almost certainly have a say in the Bucs’ hirings for three more offensive openings — quarterbacks coach, running backs coach and receivers coach — and those candidates would be in play for other offensive staffs being filled in the immediate future, creating an urgency to find an answer before the best positional coaches are off the market. The Bucs also have openings for an outside linebackers coach and assistant defensive line coach, but the priority is finding the offensive coordinator first.
It’s likely the NFL will have most if not all of its coordinator positions filled in the next week, wanting hires in place before the combine starts in Indianapolis in two weeks as a central part of the evaluation and draft process. The Bucs don’t have an answer yet at offensive coordinator, but they could have clarity and a hire in place in the coming days.
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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