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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Kiffin leaves, suitable replacement is ready

TAMPA — The perfect candidate is an older man.

Gray hair askew, clothes disheveled and mood frantic. He should be overpaid by industry standards and always have one eye on another job. Yeah, if the Buccaneers need a defensive coordinator, this is the applicant they'd want.

Do you suppose Monte Kiffin would be interested?

Let's face it, the last thing Tampa Bay wants to see is Kiffin with a road map. The guy has done his fair share of flirting with other teams over the years, but the Glazers always welcomed him back with open wallets.

This time, it might not be enough. Kiffin is supposedly considering a job with son Lane at the University of Tennessee, and it feels as if he is closer to the door than ever before.

So, if it comes to pass, what kind of coordinator should the Bucs want? Well, the first inclination is to look for another Monte. A guy who is a little kooky, a little hyper and a lot of smart.

But Kiffin, like any other original, is not easily duplicated. And the Bucs should not fall into a trap of trying to replace the most high-profile defensive coordinator in the league with the biggest name they can find.

And, the way it looks, there will be plenty of big names available in the coming weeks. A lot of defensive-minded head coaches could be unemployed by January, and Tampa Bay would be an attractive landing spot if Kiffin decides to go.

Still, the Bucs would be better off with an under-the-radar candidate. A coach whose potential is greater than his resume and who could be found with a knock on the door.

First, consider some of the more interesting applications that could come Tampa Bay's way. Some of the league's big names, and some of the game's great minds. And, after looking over the list, consider the alternative:

Romeo Crennel

Cleveland head coach

He has a nice resume as a defensive assistant, winning multiple Super Bowls with the Giants and the Patriots. Drawbacks? He's 61 and has been awful as a head coach in Cleveland, and there's always the question of how much he benefited from Bill Belichick's influence on the defenses in New York and New England.

Herm Edwards

Kansas City head coach

Made the playoffs in four of his first six seasons as a head coach but is 6-22 since 2007. Odd as it seems, Edwards has never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. His strong association with Tony Dungy would seem to make him a long shot for Tampa Bay if he loses his job with the Chiefs.

Jim Haslett

St. Louis head coach

Few probably recall, but Haslett was offered Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator position before Kiffin in 1996. Haslett turned it down to stay in New Orleans, and the Saints instead gave Dungy permission to talk to Kiffin. That cleared the way for New Orleans to give the coordinator job to Haslett. Hard to see history repeating itself.

Marvin Lewis

Cincinnati head coach

Hard to recall now, but there was a time when the low-key Lewis was considered the next Dungy. Back then, he was the defensive coordinator of the Ravens during their Super Bowl heyday. Now, he's just another in a long line of head coaches who have bombed in Cincinnati. He's a fine candidate, but memories of the Glazers overruling former GM Rich McKay when he wanted to hire Lewis as head coach in 2002 might be a bit much to overcome.

Rod Marinelli

Detroit head coach

Of all the head coaches, he probably makes the most sense. Although he never found success with the Lions, Marinelli worked well with Jon Gruden and was wildly popular among Tampa Bay players. Even so, it's still a long shot.

Wade Phillips

Dallas head coach

He could still salvage his job in Dallas with a strong postseason, but Jerry Jones is not a patient man. Phillips has been a defensive coordinator (Saints, Eagles, Broncos, Bills, Falcons and Chargers) or a head coach (Broncos, Bills, Cowboys) for the past 27 seasons. Like Crennel, he is 61, but Phillips is a more proven commodity.

So where does all of this leave Tampa Bay if the Bucs are forced to make a decision in the coming weeks? Hopefully back in their own locker room.

For as tempted as the Bucs might be to repeat history by hiring a proven coach with plenty of wrinkles in his playbook, as well as on his brow, they are probably better off making their own history with a new face.

And Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris is on his way to being a star in the NFL.

"He's the newer version of what you're going to see in the NFL," cornerback Phillip Buchanon said. "He's personable, he's laid-back, he can relate to the players. He's got all the attributes you want in a coach, but it's just in a newer package. Players are just real comfortable with Raheem."

The move would not be without risk. At 32, Morris is younger than Bucs stars Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber. He has only half a dozen seasons in the NFL and only one year as a coordinator at Kansas State.

But Morris' contract is apparently up after this season, and other teams almost certainly will come calling. The Bucs already have seen high-profile defensive assistants leave (Edwards, Marinelli, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Joe Barry), and Morris could follow the same path.

It is true, Morris is no Monte Kiffin. And, in a best-case scenario, Kiffin will stick around, and Tampa Bay's defense will be just as formidable as ever.

But if Kiffin decides it is time to make a change, maybe the Bucs should consider it too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Kiffin leaves, suitable replacement is ready 12/01/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 5:27pm]
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