Jim Bates has a chance for redemption

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
7:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

I had a chance to speak to Jim Bates earlier this month.

I could tell he wanted back in. On Thursday, he came back as the new defensive coordinator in Tampa. He wanted to erase the stink of his last NFL season.

 
  Steve Dykes/Getty Images
  Jim Bates will be the new defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At 62, Bates could have retired. But he didn't want his career to end after the disaster in Denver in 2007.

This is one of the most respected defensive minds alive. He has had wild success nearly everywhere he's coached. He transformed defenses in Miami and Green Bay, and he sparked a team in Miami as an interim head coach.

He wanted another chance to be that coach again. He didn't want to be remembered with Denver being his last stop.

Bates was fired after his one season in Denver. Bates was hired by then-Denver coach Mike Shanahan to reenergize a Denver defense that collapsed in late 2006. Bates was an inspired hire because of his credentials and history of turning around defenses.

But truth be told, it was a poor fit. Denver didn't have the correct personnel to play Bates' aggressive defense. The Broncos were just too small up front to adjust to Bates' scheme.
The pieces never came together. It was painfully obvious from the preseason on.

Shanahan, known for a happy trigger-finger with defensive coordinators, fired Bates after 16 games.

Of course, things didn't improve in Denver after Bates was replaced by secondary coach Bob Slowik. The Broncos, still woefully undermanned on that side of the ball, floundered again on defense in 2008. In the end, Shanahan and most of his staff, including Slowik, were sent packing.

Ultimately, Bates' failure in Denver was more of a product of a poor fit and a lack of talent on defense than his own missteps. Still, history shows he was a one-year failure in Denver. That ate at Bates.

He wants to be remembered for being the Jim Bates he's been everywhere else. Now, with the Buccaneers, he gets his chance.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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