The idea of keeping Dirk Koetter and James Winston tied together in Tampa Bay made sense back in 2016, when Koetter was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach.

A few years later, given the benefit of hindsight, we can officially say the Buccaneers made the wrong move.

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Koetter, 59, was fired Sunday after his second consecutive losing season as the Bucs’ head coach. He finishes with a 19-29 record in Tampa Bay. Winston, meanwhile, got a vote of confidence from the Buccaneers, who reportedly intend to keep their starting QB regardless of who replaces Koetter as head coach.

Below are the top candidates for the Buccaneers to consider in their head-coaching search.

Marquand Manuel, Falcons defensive coordinator

It only makes sense for the Bucs to shift to a defensive-minded coach after the failure of the Koetter regime, and arguably the best man to lead that charge currently coaches in their own division.

Manuel, 39, is respected around the league and has developed an impressive resume. Before spending the last two seasons as Atlanta’s defensive coordinator, he was Falcons’ secondary coach during their 2016 Super Bowl run. Before that, he was an assistant defensive coach in Seattle when the Seahawks made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and ’14.

Kris Richard, Cowboys passing game coordinator

Speaking of young, defensive-minded coaches who are gaining respect around the league as potential leaders, Richard will be mentioned as a top candidate for any team searching for such a coach.

Richard, 39, worked wonders calling defensive plays in Dallas in 2018. The fact that longtime defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli trusts Richard with such duties says a lot about the up-and-coming coach’s abilities.

Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator

Schwartz is not as young as Richard or Manuel, but he’s only 52, and he would come with experience having served as the Lions’ head coach from 2009-13. Schwartz certainly would feed the franchise’s hunger for defense.

However, that might be where the positives end. Schwartz finished with a 29-51 record in Detroit, and after a shaky 2018 season as defensive coordinator in Philadelphia, he’s not the hot head-coaching candidate he was after the Eagles won the Super Bowl the year prior. Then again, sometimes coaches thrive in second chances. That Belichick guy did OK in such a scenario.

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John DeFilippo, former Vikings offensive coordinator

Getting let go by Mike Zimmer and the Vikings during the 2018 season has barely dented DeFilippo’s candidacy. His career work as a brilliant QB coach culminated last season, when he served as the Eagles’ QB coach and helped Carson Wentz (and then Nick Foles) lead Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl.

The Buccaneers hiring DeFilippo, 40, would be a move made with an offensive revolution in mind. And that revolution likely would require a new direction at quarterback, too.

Jim Bob Cooter, Lions offensive coordinator

Cooter is 34 and coming off three seasons as offensive coordinator in Detroit, the latest of which was shaky. Given what Sean McVay has done in Los Angeles, Cooter’s age should not turn away NFL teams who are interested in hiring him as a head coach.

The Buccaneers should consider the work Cooter did before he joined the Lions. In 2013, when Denver’s offense shattered NFL records, Cooter was an offensive assistant for the Broncos under then-coordinator Adam Gase. 

Mike McCarthy, former Packers coach

Looking for some organizational stability after years of ups and downs in Tampa Bay? McCarthy, 55, might be the best candidate on the market for that job.

Coaches of McCarthy’s caliber rarely become available for hire. And unlike many of the other names the Bucs could consider as their next coach, McCarthy is established as a successful, respected coach. He’s a safe option in that regard.

Dan Campbell, Saints TE coach

Campbell’s stint as Miami’s interim coach a few years ago will be referenced often when his name comes up as a candidate; as it should, because his impact was impressive. But now Campbell has some time working under Sean Payton in New Orleans on his resume.

Campbell, 42, is known as a strong motivator. The Payton influence only sweetens the deal.