McNulty was the Buccaneers' top choice for job. The Bucs requested permission to speak to McNulty on Friday and it was promptly denied.
McNulty was the right-hand man of new coach Greg Schiano, who was hired on Thursday, for years at Rutgers and the offensive coordinator at a time when the program featured an elite offense. McNulty was almost certain to get the position, sources said.
The situation highlights the plight of position coaches, who can be blocked from moving to open coordinator positions. Those promotions represent hundreds of thousands of dollars more in compensation as well as better exposure to lead to future career opportunities. But NFL teams routinely block such moves, which is a source of concern within the coaching ranks but totally within the rules as presently constructed.
In this case the Cardinals might end up moving McNulty to quarterbacks coach, as the team already has an offensive-minded head coach and a coordinator in place. Arizona has already spoken to Todd Haley several times regarding the quarterback position, as well as Hue Jackson and Bruce Arians. Talks with Haley have cooled again, however, which could prompt the move of McNulty to coaching quarterbacks.
The situation also highlights the difficulty first-time coaches can have putting together an experienced staff. This is especially true in the case of Tampa, where the hiring of Schiano came roughly a month after the season ended and with so many other teams still competing to fill coordinator jobs. That group also includes some playoff-caliber clubs.
In many ways it's more difficult for teams to land highly qualified coordinators than it is head coaches, given the less stringent rules regarding the ability and freedom for coaches under contact to interview for head-coaching openings.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.