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Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter leads Bucs’ coaching candidates

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He has a great relationship with the star quarterback.

He resurrected the running game. He healed the offensive line. He took the total offense from 30th in the NFL to fifth.

And so the next coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs would seem to be Dirk Koetter, right?

General manager Jason Licht on Thursday wouldn’t whittle the prospective candidates to just Koetter, but he did acknowledge that Koetter “has a strong résumé” as the team prepares to select a new coach. He said the job opening, however, had already drawn interest from others.

“When you have eight wins in two years and three home wins in two years, I think they’ve been patient enough,’’ he said. ’’I understand the decision. We felt this franchise needed a new face.’’

Licht acknowledged that other teams had asked for permission to talk to Koetter, so it could be a matter of the Glazers preferring to lose Smith instead of him. If so, Koetter would be the third of the last four Bucs to have never been an NFL coach before (Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano were the other two).

“We will make the best decision for our football team,’’ said Licht, who did not give a timetable. “This organization is committed to winning and I’m confident we can find the right guy. Ownership placed their confidence in me and it’s an excellent situation. People want to come to Tampa to coach.’’

Smith was fired by phone Wednesday night after being informed that it “didn’t look good” with ownership. He declined a face-to-face meeting.

There are other hot candidates around the NFL, including Bears’ assistant Adam Gase, Patriots’ assistant Josh McDaniels, and former Eagles coach Chip Kelly.

Koetter’s name has been mentioned in Miami, in San Francisco, and in Philadelphia. He could pick any of them over the Bucs if he chose, which could be one reason the Bucs are talking about the field.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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