Sources: Bucs turning to rival in search for new head coach

Well that didn't take long.

Barely 24 hours after firing Lovie Smith, and on the same day that general manager Jason Licht explained the reasoning behind the surprising decision, NFL on FOX Insider Peter Schrager reported late Thursday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are meeting with Panthers defensive coordinator this weekend to discuss their new head-coaching vacancy.

While quarterback Cam Newton seems like a near-lock to win NFL MVP honors, perhaps the biggest reason the Panthers finished an NFL-best 15-1 this regular season was the play of its defense.

Carolina finished sixth in total defense, 11th against the pass and fourth against the run. The Panthers also surrendered the sixth-fewest points in 2015 and finished first or tied for first in the NFL in interceptions (24), fumble recoveries (15) and turnover margin (+20).

With the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC, the Panthers have a bye this weekend.