Teams that don’t make the playoffs naturally have a chance to get a leg up on superior teams when it comes to preparing for next season. And most personnel people will tell you that it’s never too early to begin those preparations.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one team not taking advantage of that opportunity.
The regular season ended 16 days ago and Raheem Morris was fired 15 days ago, and yet the Bucs don’t appear to be any closer to naming a new head coach. By the end of this week, they will have interviewed eight guys, which ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas thinks could be some sort of record, and yet they still haven’t eliminated a single candidate.
Every other team that has yet to settle its head-coaching situation has an excuse. Oakland had to hire a new general manager, who rightfully decided to make changes. Same with Indy, though we’re still awaiting word on Jim Caldwell. Miami made an unsuccessful run at the hottest candidate on the market and is now presumably regrouping.
But what’s Tampa’s excuse?
General manager Mark Dominik is still in place, and by all indications he’s the guy running this search. Dominik’s only 40 years old, running a front office for the first time. Because he and Morris were hired on the same day in 2009, this will also be the first time he hires a head coach.
His inexperience is on display.
Maybe Dominik is scared. Morris, who failed, was hired just 24 hours after Jon Gruden was let go. Maybe that’s why Dominik’s being unreasonably cautious and thorough with this process.
Morris, who failed, was hired at the age of 32. Maybe that’s why Dominik’s looking at geriatric candidates such as Mike Sherman and Marty Schottenheimer. The average age of the eight interviewees named thus far is 54, and only Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is younger than 49.
The exhaustive search might not be about to reach its conclusion any time soon. They still have to conduct a second round of interviews, but there’s also a chance they talk to coaches involved in the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
What’s the rush? That’s what Sports Illustrated’s Peter King asked in Monday Morning Quarterback yesterday:
“I think the Bucs could take 10 days to two weeks from now to hire a coach. Why, you ask? Why not? Where’s the competition for jobs right now? If you can interview 13 guys and steal some knowledge about how your team is perceived and how certain coaches would coach your team that can help you when you finally hire the one you like the best, why not do it?”
But there should be a rush, or at least a sense of urgency. The 4-12 Bucs were arguably the worst team in football last year. The East-West Shrine Game is this week and the Senior Bowl is next week. It is not advantageous to go through those events without a coaching staff in place. And as each day passes, the pool of potential coordinator candidates becomes shallower.
The Bucs had a chance to turn a new leaf quickly and emphatically in 2012, but they’re dragging their feet.