ST. PETERSBURG — There are four NFL teams yet to hire replacements for fired coaches. And once they do, the new coach immediately will face one of his most critical tasks: assembling a staff.
The Bucs are one team, having fired Raheem Morris on Jan. 2.
With each day that passes, the odds of putting together an ideal staff — particularly coordinators — get a little longer.
Brad Childress, who has interviewed for the job and is coaching in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, has been through the process. He expressed no frustration with the time line of the Bucs' search, saying the Glazer family was up front that it would be lengthy. But Childress didn't deny that putting together a staff can be impacted by the timing of a hiring.
"If you're at the beginning of the hiring cycle, then you probably have guys that you're aware of who aren't going to be under contract or are (working) in college," the former Vikings coach said. "If anybody falls off your list, then you're going to (need) more time if you didn't have a list four deep or so."
Five of the eight candidates known to have interviewed for Tampa Bay's opening aren't in contention for other jobs (Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin with the Dolphins, and Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer with the Colts.) But many top assistants are less likely to be available if this search takes much longer.
There has been a rash of coordinator hires that will only create fewer options. Former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, for instance, agreed to become the Saints' defensive coordinator on Thursday. Former 49ers coach and Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan joined the Falcons on Wednesday.
The timing issues affect lower-level assistants, too. Consider what happened to Morris, who interviewed to be the Vikings' defensive coordinator. He ended up accepting a job coaching defensive backs with the Redskins, in large part, because he hadn't received word from the Vikings.
"(The Redskins) were the first ones to approach me," Morris said last week. "They talked about giving me time to give them an answer, but I didn't want to (mess) up a good thing with a great organization. They were patient. They waited and gave me time to go through the process.
"But I've been a head coach, and I know how tough it is when you feel like you're getting the runaround. And I wanted to be fair to everybody in Washington."
Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he doesn't believe the timing of Tampa Bay's hiring will have a considerable impact on its ability to put together a competent staff. But he did emphasize the significance of getting assistants who fit.
"I think there's always a lot of angst out there (among fans), but there really are a lot of good coaches out there," he said. "It all usually works out in the end. But … you have to get the right guys. You have to make sure you get guys that you can really work with."
Childress said he doesn't know what the Bucs are thinking. But if he gets hired, he won't waste time putting together a staff:
"You're going to go to work on it right away."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]