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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

All-Stars and Big Plays | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about the Pro Bowl, the team's best touchdowns of the 2023 season, Creamsicle games and more

ss mialbag

Last week, the Carolina Panthers hired Dave Canales to be their new head coach after Canales had spent one (impressive) season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator. On the same day, the Atlanta Falcons hired Raheem Morris, another friend of the Buccaneers organization, to be their new head coach. Morris spent nine seasons on the Bucs' staff, the last three (2009-11) as the head coach.

Canales and Morris aren't the first former Tampa Bay assistants to get a head coaching gig with another NFL team, and they won't be the last. Counting those two, there are now 20 people who got an NFL head coaching job outside of Tampa after at some point working as a coach for the Buccaneers.

The very first person to graduate from a Buccaneers staff to a head coaching job elsewhere remains one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time: Pro Football Hall of Fame member Joe Gibbs. Gibbs was the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator under John McKay in 1978 and, after a two-year OC stint in San Diego, he got the corner office in Washington. In two different stints as Washington's head coach Gibbs compiled a 154-94 regular season record. He's also the only head coach ever to win three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks.

Gibbs does not have the most wins as a head coach for a former Buccaneer staffer. That honor goes to Mike Tomlin, who's been atop the org chart in Pittsburgh for 17 years, and counting. So far, his regular-season record is 173-100-2. Tomlin was the Bucs' defensive backs coach from 2001-05, working under both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, and he got the job in Pittsburgh in '07 after one year as the Vikings' defensive coordinator.

The two former Bucs assistants who have gotten the most head coaching jobs after their initial Tampa stints are Mike Mularkey and Lovie Smith. Mularkey was a tight ends coach on Sam Wyche's staff in the '90s and he later landed head coaching positions in Buffalo (2004-05), Jacksonville (2012) and Tennessee (2015-17). Smith was a linebackers coach for five seasons under Dungy and subsequently had head coach runs in Chicago (2004-12), Tampa Bay (2014-15) and Houston (2022)

One of the coaches on this list still has a game to manage in the 2023 season. Kyle Shanahan, whose San Francisco 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII on February 11, launched his NFL coaching career as an offensive quality control coach in Tampa in 2004-05. Shanahan has a 64-51 regular season record in seven seasons with the Niners and has led his team to four conference championship games and two Super Bowls.

Here's the full 20-man list of former Bucs coaches who later got head coaching jobs elsewhere. Note that this list doesinclude Jon Gruden, who was a head coach for the Raiders, the Buccaneers, and then the Raiders again. It also includes a couple of interim head coaches as well as Sean McVay, who was listed in the personnel department in the Bucs' 2008 media guide but had the title of "coaches assistant" and did some work with the receivers. These are presented in alphabetical order:

  • Rich Bisaccia – Bucs' special teams coordinator, associate head coach & running backs, associate head coach/special teams coordinator from 2002-10…Las Vegas interim head coach, 2021…Record: 7-5
  • Gus Bradley – Bucs' defensive quality control coach, linebackers coach, 2006-08…Jacksonville head coach, 2013-16…Record 14-48
  • Jim Caldwell – Bucs' quarterbacks coach, 2001…Indianapolis head coach, 2009-11, Detroit head coach, 2014-17…Record: 62-50
  • Dave Canales – Bucs' offensive coordinator, 2023…Carolina head coach, 2024-present…Record: TBD
  • David Culley – Bucs' wide receivers coach, 1994-95…Houston head coach, 2021…Record: 4-13
  • Herm Edwards – Bucs' assistant head coach/defensive backs coach, 1996-00…New York Jets head coach, 2001-05, Kansas City head coach, 2006-08…Record: 54-74
  • Wayne Fontes – Bucs' secondary coach, defensive coordinator/secondary coach, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator/secondary coach, 1976-84…Detroit head coach, 1988*-96…Record: 66-67
  • Joe Gibbs – Bucs' offensive coordinator/offensive backs coach, 1978…Washington head coach, 1981-92, 2004-07…Record: 154-94
  • Jay Gruden – Bucs' offensive assistant, 2002-08…Washington head coach, 2014-19…Record 35-49-1
  • Jon Gruden – Bucs' head coach, 2002-08…Oakland/Las Vegas head coach, 2018-21**…Record^: 22-31
  • Nathanial Hackett – Bucs' offensive quality control coach, 2006-07…Denver head coach, 2022+…Record: 4-11
  • Aaron Kromer – Bucs' senior assistant, senior assistant/offensive line coach, 2005-07…New Orleans interim head coach, 2012++…Record: 2-4
  • Rod Marinelli – Bucs' defensive line coach, assistant head coach/defensive line coach, 1996-2005…Detroit head coach, 2006-08…Record: 10-38
  • Raheem Morris – Bucs' defensive quality control coach, defensive assistant, assistant defensive backs coach, defensive backs coach, head coach, 2002-05, 2007-11…Atlanta head coach, 2024-present…Record: TBD
  • Mike Mularkey – Bucs' quality control coach, tight ends coach, 1994-95…Buffalo head coach, 2004-05, Jacksonville head coach, 2012, Tennessee head coach, 2015^^-17…Record: 36-53
  • Sean McVay – Bucs' coaching assistant, 2008…L.A. Rams head coach, 2017-present…Record: 70-45
  • Kyle Shanahan – Bucs' offensive quality control coach, 2004-05…San Francisco head coach, 2017-present…Record: 64-51
  • Lovie Smith – Bucs' linebackers coach, 1996-2000…Chicago head coach, 2004-12, Tampa Bay head coach, 2014-15, Houston head coach, 2022…Record: 92-100-1
  • Mike Tomlin – Bucs' defensive backs coach, 2001-05, Pittsburgh head coach, 2007-present…Record: 173-100-1
  • Marc Trestman – Bucs' quarterbacks coach, 1987…Chicago head coach 2013-14…Record: 13-19

* Fontes was the Lions' head coach for the last five games of the 1988 season

** Jon Gruden resigned after five games in 2021

^ Record reflects Gruden's stint with Raiders after his tenure in Tampa

+ Hackett was fired by Denver after 15 games in 2022

++ Kromer was the Saints' interim head coach for the first six games of 2012

^^ Replaced Ken Whisenhunt as head coach for last nine games of 2015

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

Is this the first Bucs QB to play in a pro bowl?

- @james.warren12 (via Instagram)

No, Baker Mayfield, who was named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this week, along with tackle Tristan Wirfs, will not be the first Tampa Bay quarterback to play in the all-star game. He is the sixth Bucs' QB to earn a Pro Bowl invite, following Trent Dilfer (1997), Brad Johnson (2002), Jeff Garcia (2007), Jameis Winston (2015) and Tom Brady (2021).

Now Brady, didn't play in that game following the 2021 season because, at that moment, he had retired from the NFL. Of course, he changed his mind about a month later did play in 2022, as we all know. So Winston is the last Bucs' passer to actually play in the Pro Bowl game. Mayfield is scheduled to play, too, but in the reimagined "Pro Bowl Games" it will be a flag football game on Sunday. He also participated in the Precision Passing competition on Thursday along with the other five quarterbacks in attendance.

This is Mayfield's first Pro Bowl appearance.

Favorite touchdown of last season?

- @h_irfan67 (via Instagram)

There's a lot of good ones to choose from, like Cade Otton's game-winner on a back-corner fade with 31 seconds left in Atlanta in Week 14. Or David Moore's 44-yard catch-and-run against Philly in the playoffs when it seemed like six different defenders had a shot at him. And I really, really loved the play-call that led to Rachaad White's 12-yard touchdown catch on third-and-10 in Detroit, which tied the game up at 17-17 with one quarter to play. Dave Canales clearly anticipated the Lions' big blitz up the middle and he called the perfect counter, with Luke Goedeke's kick-out block on Aidan Hutchinson giving White a clear path to the end zone.

But all things considered – the player who scored, the importance of the touchdown and the sheer excitement of watching the play – I'd have to go with Mike Evans' 75-yard snatch-and-sprint touchdown against Carolina in Week 13. That was the victory that launched the Bucs' on their six-out-of-seven run late in the season, and it was Evans' play that ignited a 14-point rally to get Tampa Bay out of a three-point hole in the third quarter.

You remember the play. Mayfield would later say that he saw the Panthers' safeties rotate into a single-high look at the snap and then he saw that Evans had run his route perfectly, first bending it out and then cutting back in to get separation from his man. Evans caught the ball at the Bucs' 43 and did the rest with his legs, just outrunning C.J. Henderson to the left front pylon. Evans dived at the end and was originally ruled out at the one-yard line, but the Bucs challenged that spot and it was reversed, as Evans clearly got the ball over the pylon before landing out of bounds.

Evans, who has always had deceptive speed, reached a max of 20.76 miles per hour on the play, his second highest max speed on any play in 2023. (He reached 20.78 mph on a play against the Titans.) It was a huge play for the Bucs, who desperately needed a win, as it took their win probability in the game from 48.6% all the way up to 66.9%.

Even better: That was the longest catch of Evans' illustrious career. Out of all the incredible things he's done over 10 seasons in a Buccaneers uniform, to turn in his longest career play at such a key moment…you can't make this stuff up.

With fans not excited about the pro bowl now, how would you fix it if you called the shots

- @the_diabeast__ (via Instagram)

I wouldn't fix it. I'd put it out of its misery. I'd take it out behind the woodshed and then tell my kids that it was now living on a beautiful farm in upstate New York.

Here's the thing: The Pro Bowl – or Pro Bowl Games as they are now known – are not going away because people still watch it. And I get it. It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but I can see why some fans would find it entertaining to watch these star players having a good time in competitions like Dodgeball, Best Catch and something called a "Gridiron Gauntlet." Tristan Wirfs is participating in that last one, which involves breaking through walls and crawling other doors, so I just might tune in for that one on Sunday. And honestly, I'm a big fan of flag football, so the actual game on Sunday turning into that kind of competition doesn't bother me.

I would suspect from the wording of your question, however, that you and probably your friends are not among those who gets much out of this current format, and that's fine too. But I don't think there is a fix. I doubt it will ever go back to a traditional game in pads because that had evolved into a tackling-optional contest in which players understandably prioritized their health and the health of their opponents.

So if you're not going to play a game that resembles NFL football during the season but you are still going to gather the all-stars at one location for some kind of competitive event, what else can you do? They've come up with a pretty long list of competitions, and I guess we'll see over the coming years which ones prove most popular among players and fans.

If I was actually in charge of what to do with the Pro Bowl, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to kill it off for monetary reasons. But if you're asking me this question as a hypothetical without those conditions attached, I would still name a Pro Bowl team, and that would be that. No gathering or games or anything other than the award. And if we do have to gather everyone for games, I'd move it back to Hawaii so more players would be eager to come and enjoy a vacation in a beautiful locale.

Will the Bucs wear creamsicles next season?

- @jan_kenney (via Instagram)

The Buccaneers have not yet made any official announcement on this one way or the other, so I can't give you a definitive answer at this moment. However, if you are asking me if I think there will be another Creamsicle Game next year, I would say yes.

Considering how well the return of the Creamsicles went this past season – the Bucs didn't win that game but the fans clearly enjoyed the uniforms, the stadium transformation and everything that went along with the event that week – I would be surprised if the team didn't want to do that again next year, and the year after that.

Keep in mind that it's been more than a decade since the Buccaneers discovered how warmly the fans would receive throwback games to the team's original uniforms. The Bucs first held one in 2009 against the Packers and kept doing so once a season through 2012. Unfortunately, a new restriction on multiple helmets instituted by the NFL in 2013 made it impossible for the Bucs to continue the young tradition. When those restrictions were eased in the last couple years, the team eagerly broke the Creamsicle garb out of its closet again.

How many OC's are we going to interview?

- @justinnnn.1 (via Instagram)

Well, as of Thursday afternoon, the Buccaneers were up to six confirmed interviews to replace Dave Canales as the team's offensive coordinator, and that occurred in just seven days after Canales got his new gig as the Panthers' head coach. Clearly, the team is both moving quickly to get this very important issue resolved, but also casting a wide net.

The six confirmed interviewees are Bucs' Quarterbacks Coach Thad Lewis, Lions Wide Receivers Coach Antwaan Randle El, Texans quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson, Rams Passing Game Coordinator Jake Peetz, former Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and former Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. There have been reports of several other candidates getting scheduled interviews, but nothing yet confirmed by the team.

Is that a lot? Not really. Last year, in the search that led to the (very successful) hiring of Canales, the Buccaneers interviewed a total of 10 candidates. It wouldn't be a surprise to get to that number or possibly a few more this year. And while I mentioned the dual priorities of getting the new coordinator in place as soon as possible but making sure to speak with a variety of candidates, the team won't rush to a decision. Last year, the Bucs' parted with Byron Leftwich on January 19 but didn't announce the hiring of Canales until February 16, 28 days later.

What is your favorite offseason activity to cover?

- @marlonserbin (via Instagram)

The draft, for sure. It is a bottomless well of potential content, and since I don't follow college football as fanatically as some, for me personally it's fun to learn a lot more about all of the prospects. I mean, I know how futile it is to attempt to predict anything but the first handful of picks in the first round, but I still read just about every mock draft I come across.

It's better than free agency. They both have plenty of run-up analysis, but the three days of the draft are a tighter event with non-stop developments and reveals. Free agency has a huge rush on the first day or two, with most of the biggest available names signing right away, then it's hit or miss with the news for weeks to come. And there's no guarantee your team is going to participate to any great extent in free agency, based on cap space and team philosophy. If you take seven picks into the draft, however, you're coming away with seven new players (give or take one or two if trades occur).

Free agency also is just as much about departure as arrival, whereas you don't normally lose a player during the draft. What's the hot topic right now for the Bucs regarding free agency? Whether or not they will be able to re-sign the likes of Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield, Antoine Winfield Jr., Lavonte David, Devin White and Chase McLaughlin. That means contemplating the thought of losing one or more of those players, which is no fun. It's making me nervous just typing about it right now.

What other offseason activities would be in consideration? The NFL Scouting Combine is fun in that it brings the whole league together in one location for a week. Every head coach and general manager does about a half hour at the podium and many then sit down with their local media for another long chat, so there's always plenty to write about.

The Bucs' offseason program, including OTAs and mini-camps, are very important to team development but not exactly thrilling from a coverage standpoint. I mean, it's practice. The league's annual meeting generally generates some news and it's usually at some resort in a city with enjoyable weather, so it has its attractions, as well. Still don't like either of those things as much as the draft, though.

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