Expect more changes on Bucs coaching staff

Published Jan. 13, 2013


Bucs coach Greg Schiano sat by his pool one day last week evaluating candidates for the openings on his staff.

It certainly was a more relaxed pace than a year ago. Schiano was hired Jan. 26 and had to scramble for candidates because many of the vacancies on other teams had been filled.

If anything surprised Schiano in his first season as an NFL coach, it was how difficult it is to fill out a staff when other teams routinely deny permission for interviews of their assistants.

As a result, Schiano hired eight assistants who had worked for him at Rutgers during some point in their careers. When it came to others, he had to use his instincts to hire the best available talent.

It's no surprise, then, the Bucs will have significant turnover on their staff in 2013.

Already the Bucs have three coaching positions to fill: defensive backs, quarterbacks and receivers.

"I'm still in the process of evaluating all our coaches," Schiano said. "And that started with evaluating myself."

Defensive backs coach Ron Cooper was the latest to leave, agreeing last week to coach the secondary for Willie Taggart at USF.

Quarterbacks coach Ron Tur­ner became the coach at Florida International, and receivers coach P.J. Fleck accepted the coaching job at Western Michigan.

Indications are there will be a few more departures. Schiano said he is anxiously waiting to see if offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is hired as coach by the Bears. It seems as though Sullivan is a long shot, and the Bucs hope a decision will be reached by the middle of this week.

Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan will return despite the Bucs blowing four fourth-quarter leads this season.

The Bucs essentially told Cooper to seek other opportunities but did not announce it. He's a good coach and a better person. But let's be honest: The lack of production in the secondary led to losses. Tampa Bay was last in the NFL in passing defense and nearly set a league record for passing yards allowed in a season.

Certainly not all of it was Cooper's fault. The Bucs decided to go with Aqib Talib and Eric Wright at cornerback, and both were suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Talib later was traded to the Patriots. The Bucs will have to address cornerback through the draft and free agency, especially because Wright will almost certainly be released before offseason workouts begin.

Safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall draft pick in 2012, hit a plateau in November until picking up the pace in the final two games.

The loss of Turner means Josh Freeman will enter the final season of his contract with his third quarterbacks coach in as many seasons. And the Bucs don't plan to discuss a contract extension with him until after 2013.

Fleck was arguably the Bucs' best position coach. He had some talent to work with. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams combined for 2,380 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. But the Bucs have no depth at receiver. Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick in 2010, has not played a complete season due to injuries and lost his job in the slot to Tiquan Underwood. Sammie Stroughter, who spent most of the season on injured reserve, is a free agent.

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Schiano has his work cut out for him.

ROOKIE ACHIEVEMENTs: Barron, RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David were named to the NFL all-rookie team by Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers Association. Martin had 1,926 yards from scrimmage, third most ever for a rookie. Barron had 89 tackles, four tackles for loss, one interception, 10 passes defensed and one forced fumble. David led the Bucs with 139 tackles, including two sacks, and had one interception and five passes defensed while pacing all rookies with 20 tackles for loss.