TAMPA, FEB. 4 -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turned down by Bill Walsh and turned off by Buddy Ryan, ended their coaching search where it began -- with Richard Williamson.

Owner Hugh Culverhouse removed the "interim" from Williamson's title today, ending a two-month search for a permanent successor to Ray Perkins.

When Perkins was fired Dec. 3, Williamson, 49, was named interim coach for the final three games. He was considered the long shot to keep the job as Culverhouse searched for a big name to lead the Buccaneers 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."

Tampa Bay passed over former Eagles' coach Ryan, New York Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick and Miami Dolphins offensive 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 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."

The Buccaneers have had only three winning seasons in 15 years and haven'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's 19-41 record.

Ryan, fired by the Eagles on Jan. 8, was interviewed 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.

Williamson said his first priority will be finding help for the defensive line. He'd also like to upgrade the secondary and offensive line, plus find a big fullback, either through Plan B or the draft.