Why is it taking so long for Bucs to hire an offensive coordinator?

TAMPA — It’s been 18 days since the Bucs fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and five other assistant coaches. Three additional members of the staff retired.

Head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Jason Licht have interviewed seven candidates for Leftwich’s old job. In fact, Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher will have a second meeting with the Bucs for that position this week. He interviewed virtually the first time while helping to prepare Cincinnati to play Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

The Bengals lost to the Chiefs 23-20 on Jan. 29. Pitcher has since signed a a lucrative contract extension to remain in Cincinnati but will still make the visit to Tampa.

The Bucs also have met at least once with Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Giants quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney, Broncos quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, Jaguars passing game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell and Saints passing game coordinator Ronald Curry.

Monken, who was the Bucs’ offensive coordinator from 2016-18, interviewed for a second time with the Ravens last week.

Why is it taking Tampa Bay so long to hire an offensive coordinator?

If you’re frustrated with the slow pace of the process, you’re not alone. So are the Bucs.

There are several reasons for the delay, which only breeds speculation. But a series of requirements by the NFL when hiring for a coordinator position has added a few necessary steps.

The situation is not unique to the Bucs. The NFL now requires teams to interview two minority candidates for coordinator positions. Teams also must interview two external candidates for every coordinator spot.

The Bucs have not indicated they are interested in promoting from within, so that hasn’t been a factor.

In addition, teams are are not permitted to interview candidates from teams that had a first-round playoff bye until after the Super Bowl. Those coaches could only be contacted during their bye week, but many teams (such as the Bucs) were still playing.

The Eagles and Chiefs had the top seeds in each conference and will meet in Super Bowl 57 Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. If the Bucs had interest in any of their assistant coaches, such as Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, for example, they now would have to now wait until after the championship game.

Some coordinators may still be weighing options.

Monken, for example, has job security at Georgia and is the highest-paid assistant in college football at $2.01 million per year.

He could be the Bucs’ first choice. But he has had two interviews with the Ravens for their offensive coordinator post. Baltimore is a better team, and has a better quarterback in Lamar Jackson and a more stable head coaching situation with John Harbaugh.

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Frankly, you also have to wonder how the Bucs’ position is perceived around the rest of the NFL.

Bowles went 8-9 in his first season despite having quarterback Tom Brady, who retired last week. The Bucs currently have only one quarterback under contract: former Florida Gators star Kyle Trask, who has been active for just two games over the past two seasons.

Tampa Bay also is $55 million over the $224.8 million salary cap. With an inability to attract or retain many free agents, some candidates may be weighing whether it’s better to remain in their current jobs and hope for a better opportunity following the 2023 season.

Coaching a player such as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow represents job security to the entire organization, especially Pitcher. Burrow recently talked about how well the offensive staff works together in Cincinnati.

“I think that’s pretty unique to this place,” Burrow said. “I think that’s what makes everyone love being here. There’s no egos, from me to our coaching staff, to (head coach) Zac (Taylor), to (offensive coordinator) Brian (Callahan), to ‘Pitch’ (Pitcher), to our receivers. It’s a collaborative effort that everyone puts in so everyone can take ownership.”

Cooter also has been interviewed by the Panthers and is in a good situation in Jacksonville with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback.

Both the Colts and Cardinals have yet to hire a head coach, and some assistants may be promised to potential head coaches who are in the running for those jobs. Other teams, such as the Panthers, Texans, Titans, Broncos and Commanders, are still looking for offensive coordinators.

Getting it right seems more important than getting it done quickly.

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