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Bucs wise to pass on Senior Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers had a chance to coach in the Senior Bowl. They wisely declined.

In other years, the Bucs likely would have jumped on the opportunity. Coaching in the Senior Bowl is a chance to work closely with potential draft picks. There is even the possibility that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who could be a target with the No. 1 overall pick, could take part in the Senior Bowl, although he hasn’t committed yet.

But the Bucs have something bigger to take care of first. They need to get an offensive coordinator in place. Coach Lovie Smith has said that’s the first order of business this offseason, and it should be. The Bucs went through the 2014 season without an offensive coordinator after Jeff Tedford had to have heart surgery late in the preseason.

The absence of a coordinator undoubtedly played a role in the Bucs ranking 30th in total offense. They never really got into an offensive rhythm.

They need to get this hire right, and they need to act quickly because they’ll have competition for the top candidates.

Former head coaches Rob Chudzinski, Marc Trestman and Brad Childress could be candidates. The Bucs also are keeping a close eye on Atlanta coordinator Dirk Koetter, San Francisco coordinator Greg Roman and New York Jets coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

Koetter, Roman and Morninweg remain under contract with their respective teams. But each of those teams has parted ways with their head coach. A new coach may or may not want to keep them in place.

Tampa Bay's coaches and scouts still will attend the Senior Bowl and be able to evaluate prospects. They just won't have the direct interaction they would if they were coaching in the game.