As we mentioned earlier, Tampa Bay’s list of candidates for head coach goes beyond the guys they already have interviewed.
They now reportedly have asked for and received permission to speak with Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. That comes shortly after a report that they’ve received permission to speak with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
The candidates Tampa Bay is known to already have interviewed are Mike Sherman, Brad Childress, Marty Schottenheimer and Jerry Gray.
Chudzinski represents a bit of a departure from the rest of Tampa Bay’s known list. Chudzinski is just 43. He had a two-year stint as a coordinator in Cleveland and joined the Panthers this year, but most of his experience was as a tight ends coach. Sherman, Childress and Schottenheimer are former NFL head coaches and all are over 50 years old. Gray is 49 and hasn’t been a head coach, but has plenty of experience as a coordinator.
But it’s logical the Bucs would want to talk to Chudzinski, who interviewed for the Jacksonville job. Chudzinski joined Carolina soon after coach Ron Rivera was hired last year and quickly installed an offense similar to San Diego’s.
With rookie quarterback Cam Newton, the offense quickly became one of the most prolific in the league. Chudzinski previously was tight ends coach in San Diego. He also spent time as an assistant in Cleveland. Before that, Chudzinski was best known as the tight ends coach at the University of Miami, where he worked with Tampa Bay’s Kellen Winslow and Carolina’s Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
Chudzinski's success with Newton suggests that he could be able to get Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman back on track after a rough 2011 season. That's going to be a priority for whoever ends up with the Bucs.