The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismissed Lovie Smith, the 10th head coach in franchise history, on Wednesday evening. They won't waste any time searching for number 11.
General Manager Jason Licht, who will spearhead that search, held a press conference on Thursday afternoon, roughly 16 hours after the team announced that Smith would not return. Licht began by expressing his deep respect for Smith. He then spoke, of course, about the factors that led into the decision to change coaches, all while making an effort to shift the focus forward. That's understandable, because the team would like to have a new head coach – and the new direction that entails – in place as soon as possible.
And so Licht noted that the search process would begin immediately after he left the press conference. During his talk, Licht praised Buccaneer ownership for taking the necessary time to get important decisions right. Choosing a new head coach is one of the most important decisions a franchise can make, so Licht will adopt that same approach.
"We would like to be fairly quick with this, but we're not going to sacrifice thoroughness for it," said Licht. "We're going to move as swiftly as we can, but also be relentless with our research and make a smart decision."
The Buccaneers brought both Licht and Smith into the fold in January of 2014, so this will be the first time that Licht has sought a head coach for the Buccaneers. However, he gained valuable experience in such a search in 2013 when he was the Arizona Cardinals' Vice President of Player Personnel, working with General Manager Steve Keim. Licht was intimately involved in the search that led to Bruce Arians, who would win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award in 2014, and it emphasized several traits he will be looking for once again.
"[I learned] that great coaches come in different shapes and sizes and personalities," said Licht. "You look for a guy that's very authentic and honest and can tell you the truth – sometimes that doesn't necessarily mean that's what you want to hear, but what you need to hear."
Licht said he had yet to contact any outside candidates for the job but did confirm that he considered Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter a "very strong candidate" for the opening. Koetter, who just finished his first season in Tampa, previously held coordinator positions in Atlanta and Jacksonville and was a successful collegiate head coach at Boise State and Arizona State. This past season, he was instrumental in the rapid development of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.
"He's put a good resume in front of him for this year," said Licht of Koetter. "[He coordinated] historically the best offense we've had here in Tampa Bay. He's a good communicator. He's done great things with Jameis. There's a lot of good football coaches out there. Dirk's one of them."
Licht does not expect to have difficulty finding head coach candidates who are motivated to come to Tampa, indicated that "a lot of interest" has already been expressed in the open position. He considers it a very attractive opportunity to build a winning team.
"I'll start with, once again, ownership that is not afraid to spend money," said Licht. "I'll go into a 22-year old quarterback, who I happen to believe is a franchise quarterback; that's a very strong asset to have. That's one that not many teams can say that they have."
Most importantly, the Buccaneers are committed to finding a way to win, which is why they are in this head coaching search again. Licht thinks that commitment will be obvious and appealing to potential candidates.
"I would tell them that this organization has done everything it can to find the best head coach," he said. "They are committed to winning. They are committed to finding the right guy. And right now, they're confident that we can find the right guy and they've placed that confidence in me. I've been around some great organizations. I've been part of a coaching search in Arizona that resulted in a pretty good head coach. I've had a lot of experiences with that, with good coaches, and I don't think it's going to deter a great coach from coming here. It's an excellent situation. It's already been shown from the interest we've received that people want to come to Tampa and coach."