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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Annual coaching carousel to start spinning

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 01:31 AM
TAMPA -

You can't find them on NFL sidelines at the moment, but you can sense their presence.

Call them The Replacements.

When the regular season ends in six weeks, the league's coaching churn will begin in earnest. It happens every year, and 2012 will be no exception.

A group of head coaches will be fired in January and it's not difficult to sniff out the hot spots. Big changes could be coming in Philadelphia, Dallas, Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo, Cleveland and Carolina.

A week after driving a stake into Norv Turner's hopes for staying with the Chargers, the Bucs are in Charlotte, where Panthers coach Ron Rivera may not survive for a third season.

The group of potential replacements bears some similarities with last year's list, but there are some tantalizing new entries to consider. Jon Gruden, who has been an analyst on "Monday Night Football'' since his dismissal from the Bucs after the 2008 season, is already rumored to be eyeing the Eagles job.

Let's be careful.

Speculation follows Gruden around like veteran quarterbacks, but the timing appears right for him to return to his true passion – coaching football. He's still around the game, but trading insights with Mike Tirico in a broadcast booth is a poor substitute for devising a play that isolates his slot receiver on a middle linebacker.

I'd put Gruden in the "Yes" column this time around.

Six seasons have passed since Bill Cowher got in an official's face. As always, the CBS analyst remains cagey about a return to the sideline.

"You come out here, you miss it,'' Cowher said earlier this month when visiting Buccaneer headquarters to tape a few interviews. "Come Monday morning, I don't miss it so much. I'm very happy with where I'm at. I really enjoy my work with CBS, still being a part of the game. You never shut anything out, but I'm in a really good place right now.''

It's no secret Marty Schottenheimer is interested in coaching again, even though he'll turn 70 in September. While Schottenheimer has never lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, he's won everywhere he's been, with an accent on discipline and fundamentals.

Browns president Mike Holmgren might also be in the mix because he's not coming back to Cleveland under new owner Jimmy Haslam. With Cowboys coach Jason Garrett potentially vulnerable, Holmgren has already been linked with a possible vacancy in Dallas.

"I haven't talked to a single soul, that's the first thing,'' Holmgren said. "The second thing is I honestly don't know what the future holds or what I want to do. Believe me on that.''

One thing we can believe is that Holmgren isn't coming back anywhere – unless he has some clout in personnel decisions.

While Jerry Jones runs the show in Big D, that didn't scare away Bill Parcells from taking the job in 2003.

Now we turn to a couple of wild cards.

At last glance, Andy Reid still has a job with the Eagles, but that accomplished 14-year run is about to end. Reid would probably benefit from a year off, but he's not wired that way and will be an attractive candidate if he hits the open market.

In New Orleans, Sean Payton is serving out a one-year NFL suspension for his role in the Saints bounty program. The Saints and Payton have yet to reach an agreement on a contract extension, so he may be available in 2013.

If Payton becomes a free agent, NFL owners will be intrigued by his fertile offensive mind. He'll attract more suitors than you can shake a playbook at.


ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833 Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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