1. Bucs

If the Bucs coaching search was set up like the NFL playoffs, who would win?

While the Buccaneers search for their next head coach with a process hidden from public view, follow our 12-coach bracket leading to our selection of the coach we wish they would hire.
The Bucs run onto the field before a 2017 game against the Bears. [Times files]
The Bucs run onto the field before a 2017 game against the Bears. [Times files]
Published Jan. 3, 2019
Updated Jan. 3, 2019

It is the traditions that bind us. Those shared experiences unique to a people and a community.

So let's hear it for the annual unveiling of Help Wanted posters in Tampa Bay!

In other NFL towns, there are playoff hopes and dreams every new year. Around One Buc Place, January is the time to clean out offices and interview job applicants.

For the fifth time since 2009, the Bucs are poised to hire a head coach. So maybe it's time we embrace this madness. Maybe it's time to enjoy the rumors, maneuvering and nonsense.

That's why we're creating our own version of the NFL playoffs for coaching candidates. Twelve names, four first-round byes and a bare minimum of logic. Our coaching playoffs won't be on ESPN, but on the plus side, they will be completed in three days.

So nod your head, pound your fist, drink your ale and let us know what you think of today's wild-card round. And don't worry if you hate our winning choice. Even in the unlikely event we're right, he'll still probably be fired two years from now.

Wild-Card Round


First-round byes: Bruce Arians, John Harbaugh

No. 3 Josh McDaniels vs. No. 6 Brian Flores
Josh McDaniels, left, and Brian Flores, right. [AP photos]
Josh McDaniels, left, and Brian Flores, right. [AP photos]

It's the battle of the Belichick feeder system, which has never done well by the Bucs (Greg Schiano, Jason Licht).

McDaniels is only 42, having already flamed out as head coach in Denver in his 30s. And you have to question his character after he backed out of taking the Colts job to stay at the foot of the cross near Bill Belichick. The Patriots' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach brings X's and O's, and has kept his offenses relevant, borrowing from other NFL teams and colleges. He's not going to turn Jameis Winston into Tom Brady. Who could?

Flores, 37, has been with the Patriots since 2004. He entered as a scout but became a coach in 2008. He coached safeties and linebackers before becoming the top defensive assistant this season, meaning he gets to call plays for Mr. Bill's D. And that's not nothing.

Winner: Flores. The Bucs need D. And who trusts McDaniels at this point?

No. 5 Jim Caldwell vs. No. 4 Adam Gase
Jim Caldwell, left, and Adam Gase, right. [AP photos]
Jim Caldwell, left, and Adam Gase, right. [AP photos]

Caldwell, 64 on Jan. 16, has had two turns as a head coach, taking over for Tony Dungy in Indianapolis and taking the Colts to the Super Bowl in his rookie season, and then with Detroit. He deserves an interview but not a third NFL head coaching job.

Gase, 40, lost his head-coaching job with the Dolphins on Monday but deserves a close look. In his 48 games with Miami, he had his starting quarterback for exactly half those games but went 23-25 with one playoff appearance. This year the dude beat the Bears with Brock Osweiler at QB. Repeating: Brock Osweiler. Gase is an offense junkie, one of those 5 a.m. Gruden types.

Winner: Gase. If anybody is going to get Winston to the next level, Gase could be the guy.


First-round byes: Mike McCarthy, Jim Harbaugh

No. 6 Jim Schwartz vs. No. 3 Dan Campbell
Jim Schwartz, left, and Dan Campbell, right. [AP photos]
Jim Schwartz, left, and Dan Campbell, right. [AP photos]

Schwartz, 52, the Eagles' defensive coordinator, went 29-51 in five seasons running the Lions, but who did he have except Calvin Johnson? Knows how to build an attacking defense. Ring a bell, Bucs? He won a ring last season with Philadelphia, where head coach Doug Pederson knows nothing about defense. The Eagles lost five starters this season, but Schwartz has them playing great again and heading to Chicago for the playoffs.

Of the non-Super-Bowl-ring types, Campbell, 42, is the guy. The Saints' assistant head coach and tight ends coach, he would bring an immediate stature to the position, no baloney. Was an interim in Miami after being just a tight ends coach. Players gravitate to him and follow.

Winner: Campbell. He's young and on the rise.

No.  5 Eric Bieniemy vs. No. 4 Kris Richard
Eric Bieniemy, left, and Kris Richard, right. [AP photos]
Eric Bieniemy, left, and Kris Richard, right. [AP photos]

Two up-and-comers, but someone has to go home. Bieniemy, 49, is a good, young offensive mind. He has been an offensive coordinator for only one season, but Kansas City is a skyrocket with QB and likely league MVP Patrick Mahomes. Still, you have to wonder if head coach Andy Reid is doing the heavy lifting there. He always seems to be holding the play card on the sideline.

Richard, 39, won a Super Bowl with Seattle as a defensive backs coach, molding one of the best secondaries in football. He has bumped up Dallas' secondary while working under Rod Marinelli and is the passing-game coordinator.

Winner: Richard. Once upon a time, Mike Tomlin (unavailable) coached defensive backs.