Cowher, who has been an analyst at CBS since he retired from coaching after the 2006 season, was very close to returning to the NFL last offseason and could come back in 2010 if the right situation presents itself.
The Bucs have tried to gauge Cowher's interest should they decide to make a move regarding Raheem Morris, who has endured a difficult first season as head coach. But Cowher's stance through this season has been clear: He will not interview for any jobs during the season and will not talk about any positions that aren't already vacant.
The Bucs declined to comment about this situation after being contacted Saturday.
The Buffalo Bills also reached out to Cowher after Dick Jauron was fired and replaced by interim coach Perry Fewell, but he declined to interview for that job last month for the same reasons. And while the Bills aren't on Cowher's radar, the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers coach has looked at the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers as potentially intriguing situations, according to sources.
Tampa Bay, which is located close to Cowher's Carolina home, is just 2-12 this season and has been plagued by staff issues, with Morris changing both of his coordinators since the start of training camp and ultimately taking over the defense himself. Some inside the organization have worried if Morris, 32, was ready for all of the responsibility that comes with being the head coach, and other coaches who have faced the Bucs this season have privately commented on some scheme and staff issues there at times.
The Bucs parted with coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen after the 2008 season and have been criticized in the past for not spending heavily. However, team ownership is willing to spend on an A-list coach if the right candidate is available, according to the source with knowledge of the contact between the Bucs and Cowher. Should that experienced candidate not emerge, it isn't a given that the Bucs would make a coaching move.
Given Cowher's stance about not interviewing for jobs that aren't vacant, the timing with him and Tampa Bay could be tricky.
Some within the organization believe that former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, who used to coach the Bucs and still resides in Tampa, ultimately could be asked to return in a team president-type role in the vein of Bill Parcells (Miami Dolphins) or Mike Holmgren (Cleveland Browns). However, Dungy has said he is content with his ministry work and broadcasting career after he retired from his job as the Indianapolis Colts' coach following the 2008 season.