The next Bucs coach will have to do what the last couldn’t: Win with Winston

Tampa Bay has elected to enter the market for a new coach along with with seven other NFL teams. Its requirements: Win while working with Jameis Winston and Jason Licht.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht will lead Tampa Bay's search for its next coach. The last one he hired was fired Sunday night after consecutive 5-11 seasons. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht will lead Tampa Bay's search for its next coach. The last one he hired was fired Sunday night after consecutive 5-11 seasons. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published January 1
Updated January 1

TAMPA —Firing a coach is easy. Hiring one is much harder.

The degree of difficulty is even higher when the Browns, Jets, Broncos, Bengals, Dolphins, Packers, and Cardinals also have help-wanted signs posted.

So the process won't be a simple one for the Bucs, who are attempting to find a replacement for dismissed coach Dirk Koetter.

Leading the search is general manager Jason Licht, who could've easily been asked to box the belongings in his office next door to Koetter's.

"I'm grateful to be here, I'm grateful to be standing here,'' Licht said Monday. "I told that to Dirk last night. He told me that he was happy that I was here. Right now, like I said, the Glazer family has put their confidence in me to find the next head coach and I'm grateful for that opportunity. And we're committed to find that guy."

But there are some things any candidate wanting the Bucs job must accept.

For starters, Jameis Winston is your starting quarterback.

No need for minicamps, training camps or campfire chats.

Winston will return for his fifth season in 2019. By 2020, it may be all hindsight.

But the Glazer family which owns the team is still aboard with blameless Jameis.

He will get a fifth-year and the $20.92-million club option that goes with it, unless they agree to a more economic deal.

Licht, who took Winston No. 1 overall in 2015, says the feedback he's gotten about coaching a team with a lame-duck quarterback is positive. Everyone wants a quack at it.

"Jameis Winston will be here — we have him under contract for a year,'' Licht said. "He has done some amazing things for a young, 24 (year-old) — turns 25 in a week — quarterback. (He) has accomplished more than most of the elite quarterbacks have at his age through that time span (in their careers). There's a lot to like about Jameis. Jameis will be here next year."

But is that really a selling point?

Winston has one-year left on his rookie contract. He has only one less turnover in the last four years than Jags quarterback Blake Bortles, the NFL leader in that category during that span.

Is it possible the Bucs may limit the type of candidate they can attract if the new coach can't pick the passer?

"Based on the texts and phone calls and emails that I've been getting since roughly eight o'clock last night, I don't think that's going to be an issue," Licht said.

What if the new coach wanted control of the 53-man roster?

Whoever takes this job will have to be prepared to work with Licht, but he seems willing to share the personnel duties if it means landing a big fish.

"That will depend,'' Licht said. "I think I said this last time, too, that I'm not going to get in the way and let an ego get in the way of getting the right guy here. My job, right now, is to get the best fit of a head football coach, period. So whatever has to be done has to be done."

One of the things Licht has done was hire a search firm, Korn Ferry, to assist him in finding a head coach. It's something other organizations have done with mixed results.

The agency helped the Texans with Bill O'Brien, the Falcons with Dan Quinn, the Chiefs with Andy Reid, the Seahawks with Pete Carroll and the Jaguars with Doug Marrone. But they also recommended Hue Jackson to the Bengals and GM John Idzik to the Jets. You may not read that in the brochure.

"(It) is something that I talked about with ownership last night that I felt would help with this, just assist as a tool with the background,'' Licht explained. "They have a lot of background on all these candidates that they've been compiling for many, many years… I thought it would be a great assist. But they won't be choosing the head coach."

One thing that Licht made clear is that no members of Koetter's coaching staff will interviewed.  So offensive coordinator Todd Monken is good enough to be considered for the Jets head coaching job but won't talk to anyone about Koetter's job.

"We're going to look outside the organization for this hire,'' Licht said. "I think there's some good football coaches here, really good football coaches here on staff. But we're going to give this new head coach the ability to decide whether or not to retain them and they'll be able to seek employment elsewhere in that timeframe if they so choose."

What is the Bucs' time frame? Well, like we said, there's eight openings so the best candidates won't be around long.

The Bucs reportedly have asked permission to interview Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Licht also will talk with former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. At 66, he is retired from coaching but has said he would talk to Licht, whom he worked with in Arizona.

Licht also has a history during his days in New England with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

"Just because I know somebody doesn't necessarily mean that's the right fit for the organization,'' Licht said.

It took only a few minutes to fire Koetter after the game Sunday. He went to One Buc Place, met with a few members of the Glazer family and that was that.

"The Glazer Family has assigned me, charged me, has confidence in me, trusts me – whatever you want to say – to lead that charge and search for the next guy,'' Licht said.

It just has to be the right one this time.

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud

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