TAMPA — It became apparent Sunday that the Bucs plan to interview the hottest NFL head coaching candidates of the year.
That is, if the year were 2006.
Though vowing to keep an open mind, the Bucs seemed to be zeroing in on four of the league's veteran ex-head coaches, each age 55 or older.
Former Vikings head coach Brad Childress, 55, will interview with the Bucs today. The Glazer family, which owns the team, also plans to meet with former Cowboys head coach and current Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, 64, in Houston on Friday.
According to multiple reports, 68-year-old Marty Schottenheimer, who last coached in the league in 2006, is also on the Bucs' radar, along with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, 55.
The Bucs interviewed former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman in Texas on Wednesday.
In fact, the only known candidate the Bucs have already interviewed with no previous head coaching experience is Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, 49, who would satisfy the Rooney Rule requirements that a minority be interviewed.
A week after firing 35-year-old Raheem Morris after three seasons, it's beginning to look like the Bucs are focusing on a gray-haired former NFL head coach.
The Texans have granted permission for the Bucs to interview Phillips, who just returned to the sideline after missing two weeks for kidney and gallbladder surgery. The Texans play at Baltimore in a division playoff game next Sunday. That's why Phillips' interview will take place Friday in Houston.
"I'm gratified somebody noticed," Phillips told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't want to leave Houston, but I'd like a chance to be a head coach again."
In his first season with the Texans, Phillips took them from 30th in the NFL in total defense to second (281 yards per game). The Texans have set a single-season record for sacks (41) and rank 10th in takeaways (26).
Phillips is 82-61 as head coach of the Broncos, Bills and Cowboys and interim coach of the Falcons and Saints. He believes that success should give him another shot as a head coach.
"If you look at my record and you look at all the people they're talking about now, and my record is better than most everyone they're talking about, as a head coach,'' he said.
A Phillips hire could mean changes on defensive personnel. He runs a 3-4 defensive alignment while the Bucs have players for a Tampa 2, 4-2 scheme.
Childress, 55, coached the Vikings from 2006-10, winning two NFC North titles. His overall record was 39-35 before he was fired after a 3-7 start in 2010.
An offensive play-caller, Childress had trouble developing quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and was responsible for luring quarterback Brett Favre out of retirement twice.
In 2009, the Vikings went 12-4 and reached the NFC title game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints. NFL.com reported that Childress may be interviewing for offensive coordinator and speculated that Sherman will be hired by the Bucs.
Zimmer was ranked as the No. 2 defensive coordinator in the league by Pro Football Weekly. Since coming to the Bengals four years ago, the defense has ranked 12th (2008), fourth (2009), 15th (2010), and seventh (2011).
Schottenheimer led the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League to a 3-1 record in a shortened season as head coach and general manager. He last coached in the NFL in 2006, getting fired by the Chargers after a 14-2 regular season and second-round playoff loss. Schottenheimer's career record is 200-126-1.