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If Tampa Bay Bucs fire Raheem Morris, there aren't perfect choices to replace him

TAMPA

How do you fix this mess?

It's a simple question. Not a lot of ambiguity. Ask it of any fan of a last-place team in the NFL, and I'm guessing you'll hear one answer far more than most.

Fire the coach.

As responses go, this one is fairly traditional and obviously appealing. By gosh, it sounds passionate. And it looks decisive. You might even describe it as bold.

The problem is that it's only half of a solution. Sort of like benching a quarterback. Getting rid of one guy may be satisfying, but finding his replacement is more difficult.

And I fear that has been lost in today's debate. It is true the Buccaneers have been a huge disappointment in 2011, and it seems much of Tampa Bay wants Raheem Morris to pay for that with his job, but what happens the morning after?

Because, if you're ready to fire one coach, you have to be prepared to hire another. And, given the available candidates, I'm not sure I see a perfect fit.

The Bucs need a coach who can work with younger players, instill discipline, energize a fan base and, along the way, win a playoff game or two.

He can't count on free agents for quick fixes, and may not have control over personnel, depending on what the Bucs do with GM Mark Dominik.

In other words, the perfect candidate is going to be hard to find.

Take a look at some of the names floating around, and decide for yourself:

Saviors or Retreads?

You should begin with Bill Cowher. And you should probably dismiss him immediately.

It's not that Cowher wouldn't be a good choice. He'd be terrific. Ten playoff appearances, two AFC championships and a .623 winning percentage in 15 seasons in Pittsburgh. And the whole grow-through-the-draft philosophy is a Pittsburgh knock-off.

The problem is everyone else wants Cowher, and he seems content to stay in television until he finds the perfect job. That means somebody will have to pay him a ton of money. And it means giving him whatever he wants in terms of payroll and budget, too.

Does that sound like Tampa Bay?

Jeff Fisher is much admired and has done good work, but his name recognition is still better than his resume. There are 19 coaches who have logged 250 or more games in the NFL, and Fisher's .542 winning percentage ranks 17th on that particular list. Steady? Yes. Dynamic? Not so much.

Every year in the NFL, 37.5 percent of the teams make the playoffs. So if you're reaching the postseason 50 percent of the time, you're doing great. If you make it 20 percent of the time, you're pretty bad. And if you make it 37.5 percent, you're an average team.

Fisher's playoff percentage after 16 full seasons? 37.5.

Which brings us to Brian Billick. He has a Super Bowl ring. He's got personality.

More than anything, he has a reputation as an offensive guru forged in Minnesota when he was a coordinator, which might be appealing for a team built around Josh Freeman.

The problem is Billick never actually developed an offense or a quarterback in Baltimore.

In his nine years as head coach, the Ravens had one top-10 offense. When that team won, it was because of the defense and you have to wonder how much former coordinators Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan had to do with that.

Moving on, Dom Capers, Eric Mangini, Mike Mularkey and Wade Phillips would also fit in this group, but they're hardly exciting names.

Former Bucs assistant Herman Edwards has the personality and the pedigree to instill some of the discipline Tampa Bay needs but his tenure in Kansas City was not good.

So … Jon Gruden?

Hee hee hee.

Company Men

Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is considered a hot candidate in some circles. Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm has been interviewing for head coaching jobs for years. Rob Ryan has personality, but not a very good defense in Dallas. Chuck Pagano is having success in Baltimore but was 50 before getting his first coordinator's job this season.

It's just hard to see Bucs fans getting excited about guys who have been assistants for decades and have never been hired as head coaches.

The one exception might be Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.

He has a fascinating background (former Notre Dame QB, Canadian Football League Hall of Famer at quarterback, spent five years as an attorney in Chicago) and is given much of the credit for developing Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Up-and-Comers

Rob Chudzinski has increased his stock dramatically this fall as the Carolina offensive coordinator who has turned Cam Newton into an instant sensation.

Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami when the 'Canes won their last national championship, and he was part of an impressive Chargers staff.

At 43, he's older than Morris but doesn't have the whiff of a lifer as an assistant.

Along the same lines is Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden. He worked quietly as a Bucs assistant for years, and had success as a head coach in the Arena Football League and the UFL before making a splash in Cincinnati this year with rookie QB Andy Dalton.

If his older brother is brash and dynamic, Jay is more low-key and easygoing. That might make him more likable, but probably not the right personality for Tampa Bay right now.

Bottom Line

The Glazers have been big-game hunters in the past. They chased Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson before hiring Tony Dungy, and then went after Bill Parcells and Jon Gruden after firing Dungy. The caveat is those hires were pre-Manchester United days.

Maybe they throw money at Fisher or Cowher. Maybe they're waiting to see if an Andy Reid, a Tom Coughlin or a Norv Turner comes available.

Maybe they decide Morris deserves another shot.

The point, I suppose, is there is no perfect choice.

And that's a scary thought.

If Tampa Bay Bucs fire Raheem Morris, there aren't perfect choices to replace him 12/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 6:27pm]

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