The following item is excerpted from the latest edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:
By the end of the day on Thursday, the Bucs were shipping slips off to get permission to talk to assistants with other teams -- the NFL world moves fast, of course, and Tampa Bay is already behind the other six teams with openings. But they do have a leg up in one sense, and that's because the guy captaining this process, GM Jason Licht, was in the room for a very successful coach search just three years ago in Arizona.
So what does it mean?
Well, what Licht saw in Arizona was a GM, in Steve Keim, and a coaching candidate, in Bruce Arians, who were a perfect fit personality-wise. He also saw other candidates, like Mike McCoy and Jay Gruden, who could've fit the bill from that standpoint. As such, that will be important: Finding someone who can be brutally honest and upfront, and who he can challenge and be challenged by, without anyone getting offended. (Think Mike Zimmer, in that respect.) And as for personal qualities -- and this fits into the Arians mold, too -- expect the Bucs to look for a coach who can a) reach players, b) instill toughness and c) set a culture. What's less of a big deal, as I understand it, is whether that coach is from an offensive or defensive background, or has head-coaching experience of any sort.
As for why the change was made, it's pretty simple: The defense regressed over time, even as the team added free-agent fits for Lovie Smith; the special teams struggled; the Bucs tied for the NFL lead in accepted penalties; and Smith's assistant coach hires were spotty. So now, they go to the market armed with a talented young quarterback, an offense that was starting seven guys 22-or-under at one point, a defense with foundational pieces in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, and owners who are willing to spend.
Dirk Koetter is the early leader in the clubhouse, but not a sure thing.