A Ship Without A Captain: Buccaneers Spurned By Chip Kelly

What would appear to be a desirable head coaching job continues to go unfilled in Tampa. One year removed from a ten win season, a franchise quarterback (by all accounts) in place, supporting cast coming into their own and a great climate to spend your winter. So what gives?

After firing Raheem Morris the day after the regular season ended, Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said the team would go through an exhaustive search. Most of the candidates have been older and that’s apparently because the Bucs wanted to go in the opposite direction of Morris, who was the league’s youngest head coach. That happened to be in the direction of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly, who secretly interviewed with the Buccaneers last week, had been intrigued by the challenge of coaching at the highest level and not having to deal with parents and the NCAA oversights that are inherent to coaching in college, a source told ESPN’s Joe Schad.

In three seasons at Oregon, Kelly has a 34-6 record and three conference titles. Oregon beat Wisconsin in this year’s Rose Bowl Game to cap a 12-2 season. Kelly’s Ducks, however, lost to Auburn in the 2011 BCS title game.

Perhaps Kelly reached out or at the very least Googled the NFL coaching records of Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban to see the game is not quite the same on the pro level.  Maybe he watched some game tape from 2011 to see the Bubble-Screen was not as prevalent as he would have hoped. Or more than likely Phil Knight flashed his winning smile and that Nike green and that was that. However it went down, Kelly elected to stay among the ranks of the coaching elite in college.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said Monday that he turned down an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because he has “unfinished business to complete” with the Ducks. Until word came out that he was returning to Eugene would could not help but make parallels between Kelly’s possible decision to leave the college ranks and that of Pete Carroll decision to leave USC back in 2010.

While former USC coach Pete Carroll left the Trojans to coach the Seattle Seahawks in January 2010 shortly before an NCAA report of sanctions under Carroll’s watch was released, ESPN’s Joe Schad was told that Kelly and Oregon were not anticipating heavy sanctions from the NCAA’s inquiry into the school’s relationship with scouting service owner Willie Lyles.

The Bucs moved on from Kelly quickly, calling former Green Bay Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman back for a second interview, an NFL source confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Among the candidates who have or will interview for the position are former NFL head coaches Brad Childress and Marty Schottenheimer, current coordinators Rob Chudzinski (Carolina Panthers), Jerry Gray (Tennessee Titans) and Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals), and Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.

The Buccaneers also interviewed Joe Philbin, but the former Packers offensive coordinator was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new coach late last week. 

As the coaching search drags on in Tampa, it’s worth noting that the last time a Bucs coaching search was this … exhaustive … they ended up landing Jon Gruden from the Raiders and winning a Super Bowl with him.