After things have been trending to this point for weeks, Tampa Bay finally pulled the trigger on firing head coach Dirk Koetter just a few hours after their season ended on Sunday. While he turned in a solid debut campaign with the team and worked well with quarterback Jameis Winston at times, a 19-29 record overall with no playoff appearances simply wasn’t going to cut it.
This brings the franchise to a critical moment in time going forward. While Koetter is gone, there will be plenty of questions about what ownership wants to do with the front office and whether or not Winston is the long-term answer under center as well. The Glazer family could go a number of directions but they will certainly be looking for a fresh start with a new coach either way.
Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the Bucs' next head coach:
The NFL assistants
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
He’s likely learned a ton since his first stint as a head coach and could be interested in all the talent on the roster to work with in Tampa. The ability to potentially bring in a trusted confidant to run the front office is probably appealing too if he wants to think about leaving New England once again.
Dan Campbell, Saints tight ends coach
Did a decent job as an interim head coach down the road in Miami and is highly regarded for his work connecting to and motivating players. Having a plan for both coordinators will be key but if the Bucs are looking for an energetic, CEO type to replace Dirk Koetter, Campbell has plenty of potential and the success he’s had with the Saints this year will certainly help.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Matt Nagy being a potential coach of the year has only served to enhance Bieniemy’s name on the coaching carousel as the next assistant under Andy Reid that could get a gig. He’s not that far removed from his playing days in the league and has a wide variety of experience on offense.
Freddie Kitchens, Browns offensive coordinator
You think Jameis Winston would be a fan of hiring a fellow Alabamian? He’s done great work with Baker Mayfield in Cleveland and could probably convince Gregg Williams to follow him south as defensive coordinator. He’s got a big personality which would be a plus after the Lovie Smith/Dirk Koetter era.
The college coaches
Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach
He's been a turnaround specialist at the college level who has prior NFL experience and the Glazers have shown no issue thinking outside the box and going the college route before. Might have to have a plan with his coordinator hires but Rhule would bring a new vision for how to do things and be a breath of fresh air.
Chip Kelly, UCLA head coach
The Glazer family tried to hire Kelly before and nearly came close before he returned to Oregon back in the day. Kelly’s NFL resume has highs and lows but if the organization needs a total reboot and wants to truly shake things up, making him an offer he can’t refuse might just be enough to lure him from Westwood.
The ex-head coaches
Mike McCarthy, former Packers head coach
The Bucs hiring a Super Bowl-winning head coach seems far-fetched but it’s a real possibility in bringing McCarthy south. He might just be the guy who can get Winston back on track and would be a home run in terms of credibility with the fan base.
Jack Del Rio, former Raiders head coach
Did some good work with the Jaguars up the road and the Raiders recently and is only 55 years old with plenty of energy. Would come in with a plan to help fix the Bucs' defense and has proven to be pretty solid in hiring offensive coordinators too. If the franchise wants to go in a completely opposite direction from Koetter while having somebody with experience, Del Rio could work.
Chuck Pagano, former Colts head coach
Was solid with three playoff appearances with the Colts and would bring a defensive mentality to try and fix things on that side of the ball. End of his tenure in Indianapolis trailed off because of Andrew Luck’s injury but he’s respected around the league and could assemble a good staff. Pagano might be a good fit if the front office is retained.
Jim Caldwell, former Lions head coach
Caldwell is the exact opposite of Jameis Winston in terms of personality and demeanor but that could be a huge plus, especially given his solid track record with putting together an offense and mentoring quarterbacks. Won’t sell tickets by any means but would certainly bring the floor up quite a bit in Tampa.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.