A Brief History of Buccaneer Head Coaching


There is so much about the NFL landscape that continues to evolve, with so many tables to belly up to and football fare to get full on 24 hours a day. Even Black Monday, coach firings, and NFL job interviews will soon have their own channels. The following is a very brief snapshot of the men who have helmed the ship here in Tampa Bay.

1. John McKay (HC 1976-1984). He was on campus at Wake Forest enrolling for his football scholarship when he received news that his mother had fallen ill. McKay went back home and served as a tail gunner aboard B29’s in the Pacific theater in WWII. Later, McKay played halfback at both Purdue University and Oregon University. In 16 seasons as head coach of the USC Trojans, McKay compiled a 127-40-8 record and won four (4) national championships. Buccaneer owner Hugh Culverhouse had to get to 2 million dollars to entice McKay to be the Buccaneers’ inaugural coach.

2. Leeman Bennett (HC 1985-1986). A coach at both the college and professional level, he originally served under Chuck Knoll with the Los Angeles Rams. As HC of the Atlanta Falcons, his defense, known as the “Grits Blitz,” set a record in 1977, allowing a record low 129 points in a 14-game season.

3. Ray Perkins (HC 1987-1992). As a WR, he played for Bear Bryant at Alabama on two (2) national championship teams. He also played for the Baltimore Colts under HC Don Shula, catching the winning TD pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1970 AFC championship game. He coached the New York Giants before taking on the huge task of replacing Bear Bryant as head coach of Alabama.

4. Richard Williamson (HC 1990-1991). He played for the Crimson Tide under Bear Bryant and caught Joe Namath’s first touchdown pass at Alabama. He served as the offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers under Ray Perkins before replacing him.

5. Sam Wyche (HC 1992-1995). A QB at both the college and professional level, he’s known for introducing the world to the “no huddle offense.” He also served as QB coach in San Francisco under Bill Walsh and led the Cincinnati Bengals to the 1988 Super Bowl.

6. Tony Dungy (HC 1996-2001). A QB in college, Dungy played professionally as a defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Chuck Knoll. He came back to coach defensive backs for the same team. After becoming defensive coordinator under Dennis Green at Minnesota, the Vikings defense finished #1.

7. Jon Gruden (HC 2002-2008). He originally roamed the Tampa Bay sidelines  as a young man when his father Jim served the Buccaneers in several capacities. Jon played collegiately as a QB. After serving as an offensive assistant at several universities, Gruden became an offensive assistant for the 49ers under QB coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren then hired Gruden as an offensive assistant with the Green Bay Packers, where he stayed until being hired as the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator. Gruden eventually became HC of the Oakland Raiders, where he built the Raiders into a Super Bowl contender, a team he eventually defeated as coach of the Buccaneers in the greatest game ever played (wink, wink, Buccaneer fans).

8. Raheem Morris (HC 2009-2011). After playing for and then serving as an offensive assistant at Hofstra University, Morris spent time as a defensive intern with the New York Jets. Raheem served as a defensive quality control assistant on the Buccaneers’ 2002 staff, when the Bucs finished #1 in the NFL and won the previously mentioned best game ever played.

9. Greg Schiano (HC 2012-2013). This scrappy New Jersey native went to Bucknell University as a 190lb linebacker and became team captain as well as Sporting News preseason All American team. After serving as defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes from 1999-2000, Schiano accepted the position of head coach at Rutgers University, where he faced the task of turning the program around.

10. Lovie Smith (HC 2014-2015). Winning all-state honors in high school as a defensive end and linebacker, Smith played under John Cooper at the University of Tulsa, where he was also a two-time All American at linebacker/defensive end. After serving in defensive coaching positions at several college universities, Lovie was hired as the linebacker coach of the Buccaneers under HOF coach Tony Dungy. Together these brilliant coaches developed the game-changing Tampa Two. Smith became defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams before being hired as HC of the Chicago Bears in 2004, where he stayed for eight (8) years.

11. Dirk Koetter (HC 2016-2018). The son of football coach Jim Koetter, Dirk was born to be a QB. His innovative offenses served him well as head coach at Boise State (1998-2000) and then Arizona State (2001-2006). In 2007 Dirk was hired as offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. Success was immediate in his first year as the Jaguars set records in total points scored and yards gained, finishing with an 11-5 record. Koetter then went on to become the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons before being hired as offensive coordinator of the Buccaneers in 2015.

The resumes of these former Buccaneer head coaches tell interesting stories. For now, we will enjoy Wild Card weekend, keep our eyes on the interviews, and wait to see who the twelfth (12th) Buccaneer head coach will be.