Last year, Greg Schiano led a new-look Buccaneer squad into Raymond James Stadium, opening the season with a 16-10 win over Carolina in his first regular-season game as head coach. In 2013, there’s a decent chance another first-year head coach will be on the sideline for the Buccaneers’ home opener.
Eight NFL teams have hired new head coaches since the end of the 2012 season, including two that followed the Buccaneers’ model last season and turned to the college ranks. Of those eight, three will be playing in Tampa next fall, including both squads with former college coaches at the helm.
The Buffalo Bills kicked off the hiring season by luring Doug Marrone away from Syracuse, and the Arizona Cardinals just finished the process when they landed on Bruce Arians, who spent most of 2012 as the acting head coach in Indianapolis while Chuck Pagano was receiving treatment for leukemia. Shortly before the Arians move, the Philadelphia Eagles went back for a second crack at Oregon’s Chip Kelly and this time got him to make the jump to the NFL.
The Bills, Cardinals and Eagles are three of the eight teams that will visit Raymond James Stadium during the regular season next year. It’s also possible that the Bucs will find one of the other five new coaches on their preseason schedule, which hasn’t been revealed yet, though the only likely candidates there are Kansas City (Andy Reid) and Jacksonville (Gus Bradley). Last summer, Schiano actually coached his first Buccaneer game in the preseason against another first-year leader, Miami’s Joe Philbin. The Bucs won, 20-7.
None of Tampa Bay’s eight road opponents in 2013 switched head coaches this offseason, so if the Buccaneers are to draw a first-year general for their season opener this year, it will have to be at home. The odds may be against the Bucs getting a home game in Week One, however, given that they’ve started each of the last four years at Raymond James Stadium.
The last time the Buccaneers opened a season against an opponent with a new coach at the helm was back in 2004, and the man on the opposite sideline was hardly what you would call a newcomer. Joe Gibbs had returned to the Washington sideline after 11 years on the racetrack and he led the Redskins to a 16-10 win over Tampa Bay at FedExField. Tampa Bay was also Bill Belichick’s first regular-season opponent in New England (a 21-16 road win for the Bucs in 2000), but he had previously been a head coach in Cleveland.
It has actually been 16 years since a first-year head coach in the NFL had to open his season against the Buccaneers. That was Steve Mariucci with the 49ers in 1997, and it wasn’t a pleasant debut for the visitors, as Tampa Bay won 13-6 to begin its own breakout season.
The Bucs went 1-1 against teams with new head coaches in 2012, beating Dennis Allen’s Raiders but falling to Jeff Fisher’s Rams. The 2011 season was an unusual one for the Buccaneers as they actually faced a new head coach in six of their 16 games, including two (Leslie Frazier and Jason Garrett) who were in their first full year at the helm after finishing 2010 as interim head coaches. The Bucs beat Frazier’s Vikings but lost to Garrett’s Cowboys, also dropping two decisions to Carolina’s Ron Rivera and one each to Tennessee’s Mike Munchak and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh in Raheem Morris’s final year at the helm.