Ranking the Bucs’ coaches over the years

by Gary Shelton on January 7, 2020

in general

Bruce Arians ranks higher than you might think./STEVEN MUNCIE

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Most of their footprints travel through disappointment.

With one exception, they are defined by their shortcomings. Booker Reese and Josh Freeman, Trent Dilfer and Charles McRae, Rod Jones and Dexter Jackson. As a collective, they have led fans through so many losing seasons, so many bad memories.

But who's the best Tampa Bay Bucs coach of them all?

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In truth, it matters how you measure. Do you go by winning percentages? By playoff appearances? By the altering of national perception?

Or do you go by the Super Bowl?

Me? I go by the big silver trophy. It's a bottom line business, and a Super Bowl win lasts forever. No one is going to praise your name for losing in the NFC title game. No one wants to throw a parade for a wild card appearance.

But you remember where you were when the Bucs beat the Raiders for the title in 2003 (the 2002 season), don't you? You remember the personalities of that team, the big moments.

That's why I would argue that Jon Gruden is the most memorable coach the Bucs have had, even more so than the beloved Tony Dungy.

Now, Tony's team won a higher percentage of games, and their six playoff games is the most any coach has led his Bucs team toward. Dungy built his team from dust and disarray, which is worth noting. Dungy fashioned more Bucs' legends.

But he didn't win the Super Bowl. Not here.

Ranking the Coaches

  1. Jon Gruden (2002-2008): Granted, Gruden's impact didn't last. Gruden never won playoff game after the Bucs' Super Bowl win. But for that year, he was a gem. He instilled the Bucs with a new energy, and it accounted for the franchise's only championship.

2. Tony Dungy (1996-2001): Dungy is in the Hall of Fame for what he did with the Bucs and the Colts. But it was the re-establishing of hope that will mark his tenure with the Bucs. His offenses was never as good as his defenses, but the defense highlighted an era.

3. John McKay (1976-1984): McKay, a terrific college coach at USC, got off to an awful start, losing his first 26 games. But he had the Bucs in the playoffs in four years, and his run might have been longer if not for awful ownership by Hugh Culverhouse.

4. Bruce Arians (2019): Arians just got here. But it doesn't take many wins to climb the ladder of Bucs' coaches. But Arians' defense made a marked improvement over his season. Alas, he could never contend with the turnovers of Jameis Winston.

5. Dirk Koetter (2016-1018): Koetter could never get his defenses fixed. His first season, when he was 9-7, was his best. But he never made a playoff.

6. Sam Wyche (1992-1995): Wyche was a reactionary who would change his offense after a loss. He was the coach of Vinny and of Trent. He won only 23 games in four years and never had a non-losing season.

7. Raheem Morris (2009-2011): Morris' credentials are bolstered by a 10-6 season in 2010, finishing just out of the playoffs. But in Morris' day, the Bucs didn't spend a lot on outside free agents, leaving Morris' fate to Freeman and reciever Mike Williams.

8. Greg Schiano (2012-2013): Schiano was a no-nonsense coach in charge of a much-nonsense team. In the end, football isn't about making your pasta shells match. Schiano sealed his own fate by releasing Freeman in his second season. All in all, the Bucs might have been better if they had hired Chip Kelly, their original target.

9. Ray Perkins (1987-1990): Culverhouse called Perkins "My Vince Lombardi" when he was hired. It didn't work out that way. Perkins lacked the communication skills needed to be an NFL coach. He won only 19 of 60 games.

9. Lovie Smith (2014-2015): Smith didn't make much of an impact. He was 2-14 in his first season after spending millions in a free agent shopping spree. He won six games his second year, but the Bucs had seen enough.

10. Richard Williamson (1990-1991) The Bucs wanted to fire Ray Perkins so bad in 1990 that they hired Willliamson, a career assistant (and former head coach at Memphis). He was 1-2 at the end of his first season, yet that was enough to get him rehired. He won three games in a little over one season.

11. Leeman Bennett (1985-1986): The Bucs were historically bad under Williamson, winning only four of 32 games. The punch line is that one the day he was fired, he actually thought he was going to get a contract extension.

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