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Dirk Koetter emerges as front-runner for Bucs job

All eyes are on Dirk Koetter.

In a move reminiscent of the 2000 Rams, the Buccaneers appear to be pushing out a coach with a Super Bowl pedigree in favor of an offensive coordinator. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Koetter appears to be the front-runner to land the job in Tampa Bay after a stunning 24-hour turnaround for the franchise.

Despite Smith showing progress in his second year as head coach, Tampa Bay looks to have their mind made up. Per Rapoport, they will "go through the process," but the eventual target seems to be obvious. Smith won eight games over his two seasons with the Bucs.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht confirmed Thursday during a press conference that Koetter would be a candidate, also emphasizing that his relationship with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston was "an important bond."

"He'll be a very strong candidate," Licht said. "He's got a strong resume. I've had a chance to work with him day to day for the last year, and I like Dirk. He's gonna be a strong candidate."

Koetter, a former head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, has never been a head coach at the NFL level. His best run came between 2012 and 2014 as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, which made him a fantastic rebound hire by the Bucs once the Falcons decided to blow up their coaching staff under Mike Smith and bring in Dan Quinn. For a Tampa franchise reeling after an offensive coordinator debacle in 2014 during Smith's first season -- former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford installed a system but missed the majority of his team in Tampa due to a heart ailment -- Koetter's arrival was everything Winston could have hoped for.

This is not the first time that Koetter has been a hot name in head coaching circles, especially during his best years with Matt Ryan and Roddy White. Unfortunately, Atlanta never made the leap as a team.

Koetter has also been drawing some interest from other NFL clubs this offseason.

So it goes in Tampa, where ownership has now fired their third head coach in five years. After the Bucs fired Jon Gruden in 2009, they replaced him with Gruden's defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, who lasted just three seasons. Greg Schiano lasted just two. But Tampa Bay seems to be gearing up for a move similar to the Gruden change back in 2009.

Will it work this time?

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