Schottenheimer to Buccaneers?
In 2009, the Buccaneers hired then 32-year-old Raheem Morris to be their head coach. Experts speculated over whether Morris was too young, but Tampa Bay formerly had defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin on their staff. Tomlin left to be Minnesota’s defensive coordinator for only one season before being hired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin was 35 at the time and in 2008 became the youngest coach to ever win the Super Bowl.
Other coaches besides Tomlin under the age of 50, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, New Orleans’ Sean Payton, and now San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, have experienced tremendous success to start their coaching careers. These coaches have thus started this younger head coach’s trend.
Tampa Bay believed they had found their own Tomlin/Harbaugh in the young Raheem Morris. Tomlin and Morris even held the same position, defensive backs coach, before being promoted to a head coaching position.
Morris’ tenure with the Bucs, however, started and ended miserably. In Morris’ first season, Tampa Bay started 0-7, showed signs of life towards the end of the season, but ultimately finished 3-13. In his second season, the Buccaneers drastically improved to 10-6, but missed the Playoffs losing the sixth seed tiebreaker to the Packers.
But Tampa Bay had enormous upside as in 2010 Morris became the first head coach since 1970 to start ten rookies and have a winning season.
Going into 2011 with quarterback Josh Freeman more experienced, hard-nosed runner LeGarrette Blount, and a young defense, Tampa Bay seemed to be on the cusp of becoming a great team. The Buccaneers’ Week 1 match-up with Detroit actually featured two possible up-and-coming NFC teams, but Detroit turned out to be the far superior team this year.
Detroit won the game by a touchdown and made the Playoffs with a 10-6 record; Tampa Bay recovered from their Week 1 loss to start 4-2, but then lost ten straight games to end the season 4-12. Morris was fired the day after the final game of the season where Atlanta killed Tampa Bay 45-24.
Therefore, expect the Buccaneers to head in a different direction and hire a coach with much more experience. The team has already been eyeing some possible candidates. Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer, Brad Childress and Mike Zimmer are the most notable candidates for the job at this time.
All four of them are fascinating choices as they all have been head coaches before with the exception of Zimmer who’s been defensive coordinator for several years in different places. Schottenheimer, however, should have the slight edge above the rest.
Although Schottenheimer is 68-years-old, he’s won everywhere he’s coached. He coached Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego all to winning records excect the Redskins, which he directed to 8-8 in his only season. In his last year with the Chargers, he led them to a franchise best 14-2. He has a 200-126-1 record during his 21 seasons as a head coach.
Schottenheimer’s only negative mark on his resume is his 5-13 record in the Playoffs. He truly seems to be one of those coaches unable to win the big game. Also, Tampa Bay may want more experience in their next head coach, but the fact Schottenheimer is nearly twice as old as Morris and been semi-retired since 2006 could be alarming.
Tampa Bay will want to weigh those cons, but the pros do point in Schottenheimer’s favor. Plus, the fact that he’s never won the Super Bowl should keep Schottenheimer driven even in his seventies. The five years off might even help as he’ll be fresh and ready to work.
It will be interesting to see what experienced coach the Buccaneers decide to hire. And if it is indeed Schottenheimer, it almost certainly will be his final chance to shake that label of “couldn’t win the big one.”