The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turned down by Bill Walsh and turned off by Buddy Ryan, ended their coaching search where it began Monday - with Richard Williamson.

Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse named Williamson on Monday to coach Tampa Bay, ending a two-month search for Ray Perkins' successor.When Perkins was fired on Dec. 3, Williamson was named interim coach for the Bucs' final three games. He was considered the longshot in the field as Culverhouse searched for a big name to lead the Bucs out of the wilderness.

"You'll ask me why, and it's because I think he's the best man for the job at this time," Culverhouse said. "I would rather not go into discussing all the merits. I'm not sure I have a good answer.

"It's a judgment call. I've been right and wrong in my lifetime enough to say I'll take my chances on my judgment."

In choosing the 49-year-old Williamson, the Bucs passed over former Eagles' coach Buddy Ryan, New York Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick and Miami Dolphins assistant Gary Stevens. Walsh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach, chose to remain with NBC as a broadcaster.

Perkins, who handled all personnel decisions, was fired with a year left on a contract that will pay him $800,000 in 1991. Phil Krueger, a Culverhouse assistant, was named the team's general manager, and Williamson was given a two-year deal loaded with incentives.

"I assured him if we have results it would become almost a lifetime contract," Culverhouse said. "I said: `What do you need?' He said: `I think two years is appropriate.' That showed me he has confidence in his ability."

Bucs fans had expressed concern with Williamson, viewed as likely to continue business as usual for a franchise that had only three winning seasons in 15 years and hasn't made the playoffs since 1982. The team's 6-10 finish in 1990 was its best since 1984, but Culverhouse couldn't overlook Perkins' 19-41 record.

"It's definitely not business as usual," said Krueger, who has been with the team since 1976. "In the past I've primarily been an administrator implementing the deals that other people set up. My neck is on the line in the public right now, and I'm accountable. We're going to have an aggressive approach, but the only way we can prove that the situation has changed is by winning."

Ryan, fired by the Eagles on Jan. 8, was interviewed for the job last week. He predicted he could "turn this thing around in a New York minute" but was considered an unlikely choice because of the anti-management stance he took when Culverhouse was a leading proponent of playing replacement games during the 1987 players strike.

Belichick is perhaps the hottest assistant coach in the NFL after helping the Giants to their second Super Bowl championship in four years. He is also a finalist for the Cleveland Browns head coaching position.