NFC South: Rod Marinelli
It was known from the beginning of Smith’s candidacy that he planned to bring Jeff Tedford aboard as the offensive coordinator. The Bucs officially announced that move Saturday morning.
“We are very fortunate to have Jeff as our offensive coordinator,” Smith said. “I have a great deal of respect for the job Jeff did at Cal for more than a decade and I believe he will be a great fit for what we are attempting to do in Tampa. Jeff has a successful and proven track record as a teacher and developer of young talent and I know our players, and the organization as a whole, will benefit from his experience.”
The Bucs also are bringing in former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier as the defensive coordinator. Smith is off to a much better start at filling his coaching staff than predecessor Greg Schiano.
In fairness to Schiano, he was hired late. Many of the coaches he wanted were already taken and there were times when Schiano had to go with his third or fourth choice.
Tedford clearly was Smith’s first choice. Frazier was no worse than the second choice. Smith wanted Rod Marinelli, but the Dallas Cowboys wouldn’t let him out of his contract as defensive line coach.
The Buccaneers also are likely to get their top pick as general manager because there aren’t any other jobs open at the moment. Kansas City personnel executive Chris Ballard, who has history with Smith, reportedly is the favorite.
But the Bucs also could consider former Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo, who has ties to Smith and the Bucs, former Carolina general manager Marty Hurney and former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
One other name the Bucs could look at is Atlanta Falcons director of football operations Nick Polk. He’s viewed as a rising star around the league.
They agreed to contract terms with Lovie Smith to be their new head coach, sources told ESPN on Wednesday night. The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, didn't fare well with their past two coaches, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano. But the Glazers got it right this time.
Smith, 55, is similar to Dungy in many ways. They both came from strong defensive backgrounds and both are the strong, silent type when it comes to leadership beliefs. But Smith is not a Dungy clone. He'll put his own stamp on the team.
Smith left Tampa Bay in 2001 to be the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, then became the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2004. He led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, a game they lost to Dungy's Indianapolis Colts.
The Bears were a regular playoff contender before Smith was fired at the end of the 2012 season. With a Tampa Bay team that already features a strong defense, Smith might be able to turn around the Buccaneers very quickly, despite that they finished 4-12 in 2013.
He is expected to bring in former California coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator, and that would be a great move. (There are strong indications Smith will hire former Detroit Lions coach and former Tampa Bay assistant Rod Marinelli as his defensive coordinator). Tedford helped develop Aaron Rodgers at Cal. The offense wasn't always Smith's strong point in Chicago, but Tedford should help in that regard. It's unclear how Smith and Tedford feel about quarterback Mike Glennon, who started 13 games for the Bucs as a rookie in 2013.
But it is clear that Smith will bring balance to an organization that desperately needs it. The Bucs have gone from one extreme to the other in recent years. Morris was a classic players' coach and Schiano was far more militaristic -- and neither style worked well.
Smith's style is much more in the middle of the road, and that should sit well with players who weren't always happy with Schiano's ways and took advantage of Morris' leniency.
With Smith, the Bucs might have a chance to compete for a playoff berth for the first time since the 2007 season.
Saints: Drew Brees, quarterback.
Claim to fame: He led the 2009 Saints to their first Super Bowl championship while throwing for 34 touchdowns and posting a career-best 109.6 passer rating. Brees threw for a career-best 5,069 yards in 2008. He has thrown for 30,646 yards in a nine-year career.
Case for enshrinement: Brees has been more than a quarterback for the Saints. Arriving as a free agent in 2006, Brees has helped New Orleans and the entire Gulf region rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Brees has taken an extremely active role in the community and has done just as much on the field.
He is the perfect quarterback for coach Sean Payton’s offense. Brees has made the Saints one of the most fun teams in the league to watch while putting up huge offensive numbers. With Brees, the Saints have reached heights the franchise never came close to before.
Case against enshrinement: This almost certainly will change in another few years, assuming Brees continues to play anything like he has the past few seasons. But, at this moment, Brees would not be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame because he’s only spent eight seasons as a starter and his years in San Diego were very good, but not great.
A couple more years of big numbers and another Super Bowl title, or at least some more playoff victories, should put Brees over the top.
Bottom line: Barring major injury, Brees is well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Claim to fame: He took over a disaster of a franchise in 1996 and turned the Bucs into a consistently respectable team for the first time in franchise history. Dungy went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts and won a Super Bowl.
Case for enshrinement: The knock on Dungy in Tampa was that he couldn’t win the big one and the Bucs had to turn to Jon Gruden to get them their Super Bowl victory. But Dungy was largely responsible for building that team and changing the entire football climate in Tampa Bay. Building around Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch, Dungy took the defensive philosophy he learned in Pittsburgh and built the famed “Tampa 2’’ defense, which became a phenomenon around the league. He also built a lengthy coaching tree with Herm Edwards, Jim Caldwell, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tomlin going on to become head coaches.
Case against enshrinement: With all of the defensive talent he had in Tampa Bay and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, Dungy only won one Super Bowl title.
Bottom line: If I’m voting at the time Dungy comes up for the Hall of Fame, he’s the first name on my ballot. Aside from his record on the field, Dungy brought all sorts of good things to every place he’s ever been. He won with class and did things the right way. He still does things the right way. There was a recent tragedy involving a family member of a former Dungy player. I wish I could tell you the story of how Dungy reached out, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say it was a Hall of Fame move.
Panthers: Steve Smith, wide receiver.
Claim to fame: Smith has 574 career receptions for 8,330 yards and 50 touchdowns. With all sorts of injuries at running back, Smith put the 2005 Carolina offense on his back and carried the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game. That season, Smith had 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His touchdown catch in double overtime in the divisional playoff round against St. Louis put the 2003 Panthers into the NFC Championship Game.
Case against enshrinement: It’s getting more difficult for receivers to get into the Hall of Fame as the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league. At the moment, Smith’s numbers aren’t even close to Hall of Fame material.
Smith’s also had some troubles. On three different occasions, he has had physical altercations with teammates. Playing in a small market with a franchise that’s never had back-to-back winning seasons doesn’t help either.
Bottom line: Let’s not count Smith out of the Hall of Fame race yet. He’s 31, but he really hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s going to miss some time in training camp as he recovers from a broken arm, but he should be ready for the start of the regular season.
With either Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen taking over as the new starting quarterback, Smith’s numbers could suffer. But he remains Carolina’s only proven threat in the passing game. If he can play another four or five years at a high level and get his career yardage above 13,000, he could have a shot. Of course, it would only help if the Panthers can have a few more playoff seasons.
Falcons: Dan Reeves, former coach.
Claim to fame: He led Atlanta to a franchise-best 14-2 record in 1998 and the only Super Bowl berth in team history. Reeves also led the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four years.
Case for enshrinement: Reeves, who also played in the NFL, wasn’t the best head coach ever and he wasn’t the best player ever. But combine what he did as a player and a coach and you’ve got a pretty impressive résumé. Reeves was a very solid player for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s and early ‘70s. He primarily was a running back, but also played some quarterback and receiver. He threw a touchdown pass in the legendary "Ice Bowl." The Cowboys made the playoffs every year Reeves played for them. He became Denver’s head coach in 1981. In 12 seasons, Reeves led the Broncos to six playoff appearances, five division titles and three Super Bowls. He took the New York Giants to the playoffs in his first season with that team and took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season with the team.
Case against enshrinement: Reeves’ coaching career was better than his playing career, and you can poke some holes in that coaching career. The strongest argument against Reeves is that he never won a Super Bowl with the Broncos, despite having John Elway in his prime. Despite his early success with the Giants and Falcons, Reeves wasn’t able to keep the level of play that high for very long with either team.
Bottom line: A very tough call because Reeves doesn’t have one overwhelming accomplishment going for him. If he just had been able to win one Super Bowl with Elway, the path would be much easier.
Craig in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Tony Dungy never coached in the NFC south, right? Jon Gruden was the coach of the Bucs in 2002, when the division got its start.
Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely correct. Not sure if you’re suggesting that should make Dungy ineligible, but I think I made it very clear throughout the process that anyone who ever coached for one of the four franchises that now make up the NFC South was eligible. In other words, guys like Jim Mora and John McKay also were eligible.
Steven in Ontario, Calif., writes: I am a Bucs fan and I read your blog before anything else about the Bucs. I respect your knowledge, but without Manning and what he did with the Colts, Dungy would be with Jim Mora on your list. I am sure Gruden is a pain (for the media), but he got the Bucs to the "holy land". Football is about winning and the best play.
Pat Yasinskas: Let me say this: Gruden was not “a pain’’ to cover. In fact, he was great for media purposes. He was colorful as could be, always saying very good quotes and never afraid to be controversial. Dungy, on the other hand, could be very dry and boring for those purposes. I went with Dungy over Gruden (and several other coaches over Gruden) for the reasons I stated in my column.
Mark in Honolulu writes: I have no issues with your selections of best coaches, but think you may have left out one important criteria. One task of management, in all businesses, is the development of those who work for you. Head Coaches are tasked with the development of assistant coaches. How many assistants did the head coach develop into a peer?
Pat Yasinskas: Well, I think that would only support Dungy’s case. Among the guys he had as assistants were Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin, Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell. That’s a pretty strong list.
Curtis in Cordova, Tenn. writes: I just finished your blog about the best coach in the NFC South. While your reasoning is strong, I feel there is one thing you left out. Yes, both Sean Payton and Dungy have won a Super Bowl, but you fail to look at the quality of the opponent. Payton and the Saints defeated the Colts and Peyton Manning coming off of a near-perfect season and only one year removed from being led by Dungy. Dungy and the Colts on the other hand defeated Rex Grossman and the Bears. Three years later, Grossman can barely hold a back-up job after imploding in the Super Bowl and the Bears now are largely considered irrelevant. I doubt you'll find anyone that believes the Colts and Manning will be in the same position three years from now. So, are all Super Bowl wins equal?
Pat Yasinskas: Actually, Dungy’s Super Bowl with the Colts had nothing to do with my decision. Nothing Dungy did with the Colts had anything to do with my decision. I think I made it pretty clear I was only looking at what the coach did while he was with an NFC South franchise. If I included other stops, guys like Mora and Dan Reeves would have been higher on the list and Mike Ditka would have made the list.
They helped shield the shy guy a little bit.
“Getting to a comfortable place with a deep-rooted tradition in winning is a great thing for me, a wonderful thing for me,’’ Peppers said.
Hmm? Was Peppers saying the Panthers, who began as an expansion team in 1995, don’t have deep roots or tradition?
It sure sounded that way. And, keep in mind, Peppers is a guy who was born and raised in North Carolina and went to college at the University of North Carolina.
The other shot that was pretty obvious came when Peppers was specifically asked why he wanted out of Carolina.
"Coaching was the thing I wanted to come here for,’’ Peppers said. “Coach (Lovie) Smith is a defensive-minded coach. Coach (Rod) Marinelli is regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in the league.’’
And John Fox isn’t a defensive-minded coach?
Well, read into that what you want. Let’s move onto the next piece. That was an indirect shot at linebacker Jon Beason, cornerback Chris Gamble and the rest of the Carolina defense.
“The great players they have on the defense where I could come in and be a missing piece to help this defense return to dominance,’’ Peppers said when asked why he wanted to come to the Bears.
But the most interesting point may have come near the end when Peppers was asked about his reputation for staying out of the spotlight and if he can be the leader for the Bears.
“I understand the situation,’’ Peppers. “If that’s something that I have to do, which it seems like it will be, then I’m fine with it. It’s not something I can't do. It’s just something I chose not to.’’
Hmm, so Peppers now is willing to be a leader, a guy out in front? Why didn’t he do that in Carolina? The Panthers paid him a ton of money through the years and tried to make him comfortable. What’s the difference now?
I don’t really know. Just more to add to the mysterious legacy of Peppers in Carolina. We won't really know if there's any difference until we see if Peppers starts showing up at more press conferences ...and on the field every week.
My take on this one? There are no guarantees when it comes to Peppers, but I think he put himself in the best possible situation.
Peppers had a very good career in Carolina, but never was able to dominate as consistently as fans and the Panthers would have liked. More importantly, Peppers never was able to dominate as consistently as he would have liked.
Say what you want about him taking plays off – there might have been some underlying reasons for all that. But, in his own unique way, I believe Peppers is a guy with a lot of pride. From the limited hints he gave out, I think part of the reason he wanted out of Carolina was because he hadn’t achieved greatness there and felt he never would.
I believe there were some issues between Peppers and the coaching staff through the years. At some point along the way, I think he stopped buying completely into the program and was resisting the message he was getting from the franchise – maybe even running away from what the Panthers wanted him to be. That’s not a fun position to be in.
People say John Fox is a players’ coach and I think that’s true to some degree. But I don’t think, at least in recent years, the relationship between Fox (and his staff) and Peppers was as good as either side would have liked.
Think it might have scored a few points when Lovie Smith flew into Charlotte last night just to fly back to Chicago with Peppers? Think the prospect of playing for defensive line guru Rod Marinelli might have been very intriguing to Peppers?
All that had to weigh heavily to a guy who was coming out of a situation where he wasn’t happy. This is a chance for a fresh start for Peppers and I’m not just talking about on the football field.
For most people, being Julius Peppers in Charlotte would have been a dream come true. But Peppers isn’t like most people. He’s shy and extremely private. He despises being the center of attention. Pure geography dictated that Peppers was under the microscope the whole time he was in Charlotte. After all, he was a local kid and a No. 2 overall pick.
Peppers is going to be under the microscope in Chicago – for a day or two. That could be a big difference and could be a reason why this new marriage may work. Chicago’s very different from Charlotte and that’s not meant as a slap or a compliment to either city. It’s just a fact.
Chicago is a city where they’ve also got the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks. There are a lot of spotlights out there and one will shine on Peppers, but it won’t be nearly as big or constant as the one he had on him in Charlotte. The Panthers really are the only game in Charlotte. NASCAR'S important, but the NBA franchises that have come and gone and come again aren't nearly as important as the Panthers.
Even in the Bears’ locker room, there are lightning rods (Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler, just to name two) to take attention away from Peppers.
Yeah, I know this all may sound weird. But, like I’ve said, Peppers isn’t like most people.
Maybe, by finally getting out of the intense spotlight, Peppers can truly shine.
It’s coming from the Chicago Bears, who appear to be the early leader to sweep Peppers away from the Carolina Panthers, the only team Peppers ever has played for. Peppers has made it clear he wants out of Carolina and the Bears are rolling out red carpets.
The Chicago Tribune reports Bears coach Lovie Smith arrived in Charlotte and will accompany Peppers back to Chicago for his official visit later Friday. Look for the Panthers to try to not let Peppers out of the building without agreeing to a contract.
Peppers has implied he never felt he could reach his potential with the Panthers and there long have been conflicts with the coaching staff. The Bears are going to try to use Smith’s personality and the reputation of defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to convince Peppers that Chicago is the place where he can reach that potential.
It also doesn’t hurt that Chicago is a major market and the Bears have superstars like Brian Urlacher and lightning rods like Jay Cutler to draw media attention from Peppers. It also doesn’t hurt that Chicago has plenty of other sports stars. Part of Peppers’ problem in Carolina was that he didn’t like being under the magnifying glass that came with being a local guy and the face of the franchise.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Say what you want about Warren Sapp, but one thing that’s always been admirable about him is he never has been afraid to speak his mind.
That happened again when Sapp was a guest on WSCR (670 AM) in Chicago. He was asked about his former teammate Derrick Brooks, who despite some rumblings that he would join the Chicago Bears, has not.
“If you’re telling me Derrick Brooks can’t play football, then you really don’t know what you’re talking about,’’ Sapp said.Sapp knows Brooks as well as anyone -- they were teammates for years in Tampa Bay and Brooks was the best man in Sapp’s wedding.
Part of the reason Brooks’ name came up after Brian Urlacher’s injury was because Chicago coach Lovie Smith, assistant Rod Marinelli and general manager Jerry Angelo also are very familiar with Brooks. All three were with him in Tampa Bay.
“No one knows that system better than Derrick and it was Lovie who was sitting there with him when they implemented the numbering, the counting and where we sent him and different stuff. It was Rod and Lovie who put that system together, the front seven and Derrick was an intricate pat of that.’’
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- The folks at Sirius NFL Radio just passed along a transcript of an interview with former Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice from earlier Tuesday.
To make a long story short, Rice didn't hold anything back when talking about recently fired Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.
"You get what you deserve," Rice said. "That's what Jon said. He got it now. Everybody gets what they deserve."
Rice then was asked if he was surprised general manager Bruce Allen also got fired. He didn't really answer that question and went straight back to bashing Gruden.
"Bruce, I don't know about that situation," Rice said. "But I'm talking about Jon. You look at what he did when Chris [Simms] damn near died on the field, he wanted to release him right when he got injured. I get hurt, my shoulder's torn off the bone. This dude releases me. You know what I mean? I'm your guy. The list goes on.
"Keenan McCardell, that situation was a debacle. Keyshawn Johnson, another situation [that] was a debacle. Joey Galloway, which was his man, was in the doghouse all year because he got injured, broke his ankle or whatever. Brad Johnson, that situation was bad. Brings Jeff Garcia in here, oh, he's going to change things. I helped recruit him [and he] released me, kept Jeff and then put him in the doghouse. Gets rid of Brian Greise, brings him, starts a controversy. It was chaotic. I'm giving you facts."
All that was pretty much a warmup before Rice started calling Gruden some nasty names.
"I'm just giving you facts," Rice said. "I'm not giving you how I feel personally. How I feel personally? I could tell you that, too. I think he's a scumbag. I think he's a scumbag personally. That's when he's telling you one thing and ... You know what he told me? 'Simeon you'll be here in the next five years.' I got injured [and] this man's never said one word to me. I won a Super Bowl for you. I got 13 sacks, 12, 15 every year for you. I balled. I got injured [and] you let me go like it was nothing."
Rice then went on to praise just about every other coach he worked with in Tampa Bay, starting with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who just left for the University of Tennessee.
"Monte was the truth, man," Rice said. "Monte's a great, classy coach. Rod Marinelli, he's my favorite guy of all time. Mike Tomlin, great coach. Now they've got Raheem [Morris] who is a great person. I already called Raheem [and said], 'Listen, I'm ready to come back and let's do this.' You've got a lot of interns at my spot right now. They had some interns a couple of years. Now they need to come back and upgrade that spot, get the real deal, put him in the game and let him go! That's how I feel!"
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|The Glazers, known for pursuing big names, opted for a relative unknown in Raheem Morris.|
TAMPA, Fla. -- In the past, they've flirted with the likes of Bill Parcells and Steve Spurrier (back when he was a big name) and sold their souls (and two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million in cash) to get Jon Gruden.
They even went out and bought the fabled Manchester United soccer team.
In short, the Glazer family -- Malcolm and sons Joel, Bryan and Ed -- like big names. So, how in the heck are the Glazers hiring Raheem Morris as the head coach of the Buccaneers?
Well, to make a long story short, he's Tony Dungy. Or Mike Tomlin. Or Lovie Smith. Or Rod Marinelli, back when it looked as if he could win a few games.
Morris also is, in a lot of ways, the anti-Gruden. All of that factored into the decision the Glazers made Friday, firing Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen and putting Morris and long-time personnel executive Mark Dominik in their spots.
So who is Morris?
We'll likely find out a lot more Saturday, when an introductory news conference is expected to be held. But here's the short version. Morris is 32. He was Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator -- for about two weeks.
Before that, Morris was Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach for two seasons in his second stint with the team. He first joined the Bucs in 2002 and stayed until he went to Kansas State as defensive coordinator for one season in 2006. Morris also played college football at Hofstra.
That's the bio, but here's the stuff that goes deeper than that. Morris was going to be a head coach in this league someday. Coaches who've worked with him rave about him and players who play for him do it even more vocally.
This guy is a true players' coach. He's also going to be a true fans' coach, but it might take a while to get to know him. All indications are Tampa Bay fans are going to love Morris.
|Breaking down the Buccaneers' decision to fire Jon Gruden as head coach.|
That's something that couldn't be said about Gruden. His act had worn thin in Tampa and fell apart completely when the Bucs lost their last four games to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Tampa Bay fans were outraged.
The Glazers, known for their quiet and calm, apparently were outraged as well. They took their time (three weeks) and did their homework. These guys are sharp and they talked to players and assistant coaches. Word is, Gruden didn't get glowing reviews. I think that was Jeff Garcia I saw doing cartwheels up and down Dale Mabry Highway when the firing was announced.
Part of Gruden's problem might have been that he was a bit of a showman and people stopped buying that when he didn't win a playoff game after the Super Bowl. They also stopped buying it when, year after year, Gruden and Allen just patched together the Bucs without anything that looked remotely close to a long-term plan.
That's why Gruden and Allen are gone and Morris and Dominik are getting promoted. The Bucs once ran Dungy out of town because he couldn't win the big one. They also watched as Tomlin, Smith and Marinelli worked as Tampa Bay assistants and left for head jobs and, for the most part, great success.
Maybe the Glazers looked at the Bill Cowhers and Mike Shanahans of the world before making their decision and realized what they had in their own backyard. They had a future star in Morris and the anti-Allen in Dominik, who at least has social skills. Dominik also has a strong reputation as a personnel evaluator.
And maybe the Glazers looked around the league and saw men such as Atlanta's Mike Smith and Baltimore's John Harbaugh having success in their first seasons as head coaches on any level.
The Gruden-Allen era in Tampa Bay is over. The Morris-Dominik era is about to start. Give credit to the Glazers for keeping an open mind on this and not just going out and hiring the biggest name. That worked briefly with Gruden, but there didn't seem to be any real direction for this franchise in the last few years.
You'll hear a lot more about Morris and Dominik once the Bucs make this official, and I'm guessing they'll sound more like Dungy and former general manager Rich McKay than like Gruden and Allen. They may or may not bring instant success.
But Morris and Dominik may get a honeymoon period that had long ago expired on Gruden and Allen, and fans may have to be a little patient in the growing process.
I'm guessing Tampa Bay fans won't mind because they'll have a coach and general manager who actually are following a plan.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Joe Barry is returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as linebackers coach, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com Thursday night.
Barry had been the Tampa Bay linebackers coach before becoming defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions and then-coach Rod Marinelli, who is Barry's father-in-law. But Barry was without a job when Marinelli was fired after an 0-16 season.
There had been some reports that Barry was destined to become Seattle's linebackers coach and joinnew coordinator Casey "Gus'' Bradley, who had just left his spot as Tampa Bay's linebackers coach. But Barry apparently wasn't set to make that move. Barry was a very popular assistant with the Bucs before leaving to join Marinelli.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
There still is lots of uncertainty on the Tampa Bay coaching staff with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris a candidate for head coaching jobs elsewhere and linebackers coach Casey "Gus'' Bradley no longer under contract and looking at other jobs.
Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds has the latest on the situation, including Joe Barry having an interest in returning to the Bucs as linebackers coach. Barry had been defensive coordinator in Detroit under his father-in-law Rod Marinelli. Barry previously worked for the Bucs and said there's no lingering problem over the Bucs first blocking his move to Detroit when Marinelli first took that job.
Morris, who was promoted to coordinator after Monte Kiffin left for the University of Tennessee after the season, has interviewed for the head job in Denver and reportedly could be a candidate in St. Louis. Bradley interviewed for the defensive coordinator job in Seattle.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Rod Marinelli's name is coming up in a lot of places. The former Detroit head coach is being mentioned as a possible defensive coordinator in Chicago and Seattle, which makes sense. Marinelli has strong ties to Seattle team president Tim Ruskell because they worked together in Tampa. He also has ties to Chicago coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo. Angelo, Smith and Marinelli all worked together for the Bucs.
But there's one other team that could enter the picture that nobody is talking about. How about the Bucs? It would only come into play if new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris gets the head coaching job he's interviewing for in Denver.
If that happens, Marinelli, a long-time Tampa Bay assistant, would make a lot of sense. He still knows a lot of the players and was very respected in the locker room. He also knows the system of former coordinator Monte Kiffin as well as anyone.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
We'll start the team-by-team mailbags with Tampa Bay. Lots of good questions about Monte Kiffin, the playoff outlook for the Bucs, Jeff Garcia's future and plenty more.
George in Lakeland writes: Who in your opinion will Tampa use to replace Monte if he leaves for Tenn?
Pat Yasinskas: My guess is the Bucs will stay within the organization to replace Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. They've got Raheem Morris and Larry Coyer on staff and both are capable of taking over. If I had to guess, I'd say Morris because he's a rising star in the coaching ranks and probably will attract interest as a coordinator elsewhere if he doesn't get this job. I know there also has been speculation about Rod Marinelli because of his ties to Tampa. I think Marinelli will get fired by Detroit, but I think he'll end up elsewhere as a coordinator. Just remember Marinelli is very close to Chicago's Lovie Smith, who may have to make some changes on his coaching staff.
Dylan in parts unknown writes: What are the chances of Tampa Bay winning the Super Bowl this year? It is in Tampa and they will sneak up on people due to lack of media on the team.
Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs are at least a contender, especially if they can secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Getting by the Giants will be a huge hurdle for any team in the NFC, but Tampa Bay's defense is good enough to keep them in any game. As far as the media attention, I don't know that the Bucs or any team in the NFC South, for that matter, is really as far under the radar as a lot of fans claim. The Bucs, Falcons and Panthers are all generally recognized as the next level below the Giants. Also, Tampa Bay gets more local media attention than any NFC South team. Six newspapers and one Web site cover the Bucs on a daily basis and the Tampa television stations are regularly out at practice. In Charlotte, three newspapers cover the team regularly. In Atlanta, there's only one most days. In New Orleans, there are generally two or three newspapers with the team on a daily basis.
tripsr3 writes: Hi Pat and thank you for reply to my last question. I have two questions here that have to do with Monte Kiffins eventual departure from One Buc Place. Has an assistant coach ever been inducted to the HOF, and what do you think of Monte's chances of HOF membership? Thanks.
Pat Yasinskas: Unfortunately, there's no precedent for an assistant coach going to the Hall of Fame. But, if they created a wing for assistant coaches, Monte Kiffin would be in on the first ballot. He's been a great defensive coordinator a long time and his defensive schemes have spread throughout the NFL. So have the assistant coaches who have worked under him.
Chris in Roanoke writes: Do you think that this is tampa's year to go to the super bowl? We have a good defense, explosive special teams, and an offense that usually gets enough points to win. There's also a sense of urgency considering kiffen and most of the big name players are out of here next year. And with the bucs great home play you have to think that it makes the players want it more since the super bowl is in tampa this year.Is it just me or does it seem like the peices are falling together for the bucs?
Pat Yasinskas: Let's wait and see what happens Monday night. If the Bucs can get by Carolina, they'll be in great shape. Even if they do, there still is the matter of getting through the Giants in the NFC.
Geraldo in parts unknown writes: Probably like a few Bucs fans, I've been wonderig how to get tickets to Bucs game in london. Do you have any additional info?
Pat Yasinskas: I just called the Bucs and asked them your question. They said there will be an opportunity for fans to buy tickets to next year's game in Wembley Stadium against New England. The details aren't finalized yet, but the Bucs said they'll make an announcement about London ticket opportunities some time after the season ends.
Kathy from parts unknown writes: Please explain how it could possibly make sense for Monte to leave the area? He's the highest paid coordinator in the league and has been here in the wonderful warm weather for YEARS. Why would he want to go to Tennessee and make less? Just to work with his son? It doesn't make sense to me.
Pat Yasinskas: I obviously can't speak for Monte Kiffin. And, you're right, he's well-paid and has been settled in Florida for a long time. But the opportunity to work with his son and help get his regime off on the right foot must have a stronger pull than anything.
Pat Yasinskas: Excellent point. Donald Penn is one of the most underappreciated players in the league. He's made himself into a very solid player and shown that you don't always have to spend a first-round draft pick or tons of money to get a decent left tackle.
Jax Buc writes: Will Jeff Garcia re-sign with the Bucs? I just read an article that he is playing to prove his market worth because of ill feelings since the first season game benching. If not Garcia, then who would take the reins?
Pat Yasinskas: Jeff Garcia has definitely played his way back into Jon Gruden's good graces. But I don't know that his long-term future is with the Bucs. First, I think he might want out after what happened earlier this season and the fact the Bucs didn't give him a new contract when he wanted one. Second, he's 38 years old and can't play forever. Third, and this is important, Gruden's always going to be on the lookout for quarterbacks. Just a thought here, but do you think Gruden might get a little excited about the possibility of putting Donovan McNabb in pewter?
|Nelson Chenault/US Presswire|
|Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin appears to be leaving the NFL ranks to join his son Lane at the University of Tennessee.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- What happened on the field at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday was something Tampa Bay fans should savor.
It's going to go down as one of the final chapters of a story that won't get fully appreciated until it's over. Yes, Monte Kiffin's time as the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator -- heck, his time as the best defensive coordinator in the NFL -- appears to be coming to an end.
The man who's made the Bucs respectable since 1996 apparently will join his son, Lane, who officially will be announced as the University of Tennessee's new coach on Monday. There were no denials after the Bucs defeated the Saints, 23-20.
"It's all just speculation,'' Kiffin said. "That's all it is. I can honestly tell you it's speculation, just like it came up with the Raiders, it came up two years ago, it came up last year. So all I'm going to talk about and stay focused on is Monday Night Football, the Carolina Panthers and how about this game we just played?''
If you're still clinging to hope that Kiffin will stay in pewter forever, think again. He was given several chances to shoot down the stuff he called speculation.
"No, no, no,'' Kiffin said. "I'm going to talk about our football team.''
That's the Buccaneers, for now, and Kiffin is the kind of old-school guy who means what he says. This guy is no Bobby Petrino. He's not going to leave his team in the middle of a playoff run.
But he wouldn't deny all that could change after the season.
"Well, we'll see,'' Kiffin said. "It's all speculation. It really is. I'm just telling you, that's all I can tell you, it is speculation.''
So speculate away and picture Kiffin on Rocky Top and wearing orange and white next season. Funny, those were the same colors the Buccaneers used to wear when Kiffin arrived in Tampa Bay in 1996.
Thirteen seasons later, it might be time to move on. Kiffin is 68 and has a chance to bring instant credibility to his son's regime. And, really, is there anything left to prove with the Bucs?
No, Kiffin's done it all and let's not forget that. Years from now, people will look back and give Tony Dungy, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber credit for taking the Bucs from laughingstock to annual playoff contender. They'll talk about how Jon Gruden came in and got the team its first Super Bowl and kept them consistently competitive through time.
It would be a shame if history doesn't include Kiffin in those conversations. He's meant as much to this franchise as any of the above and he's done it through two regimes that are about as different as can be.
For 13 years, Kiffin (and Brooks) has been the constant on the Tampa Bay defense. Play along here and ask yourself what you think of when you think of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
I'm guessing you're saying either the pirate ship in the end zone or great defense. It wasn't always that way around here and Kiffin's a big part of the reason.
Back before Kiffin followed Dungy to Tampa Bay, the Bucs played in an old stadium that was a shrine to concrete and they lost an awful lot. There was talk of the team moving to Los Angeles, Sacramento or Orlando.
But a funny thing happened before the Bucs could bolt. All of the sudden, they got very good. Kiffin came in preaching aggressive defense and showing his players movies with animals attacking one another to fire them up the night before a game. He brought the "Tampa 2 Defense'' into the NFL's vocabulary and watched as former assistants Herm Edwards, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli went on to head-coaching jobs.
All the while, Kiffin was a rock as coaches and players came and went. You just kind of thought he'd always be here. But that's no longer looking like the reality.
"Tonight isn't about Monte Kiffin,'' Kiffin said. "It's about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, our defensive football team, Jon Gruden, our offense, our special teams and a great, great win. And we're 9-3.''
That's all true, but the Bucs are 9-3 largely because they have Kiffin. Sunday's win had Kiffin's signature all over it. Six days after New Orleans ran up 51 points against Green Bay, Kiffin's defense made Drew Brees look rather ordinary. The Bucs intercepted Brees three times and held him to a quarterback rating of 60.2. Sure, Brees threw for 296 yards, but that's 4 yards less than 300 and that's another tribute to Kiffin. The last time the Bucs allowed a quarterback to throw for 300 yards was Brees in the season opener.
"I thought Monte did a great job once again mixing up his defenses,'' Gruden said. "We played some man-to-man, we blitzed, played some different kinds of zone and our guys played well. Our defense played really well and I hope they get a lot of credit.''
This defense will go on after Kiffin. In the last couple of years guys like Barrett Ruud, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib and Gaines Adams have started to emerge as the heir apparents to Brooks and Barber. On the current staff, Larry Coyer and Raheem Morris have the résumés to step in as defensive coordinator and there's always the possibility former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli could become available if he's fired as Detroit's head coach.
Tampa Bay's defense isn't going to suddenly fall apart if Kiffin leaves. His Tampa Bay legacy will continue to grow as long as this season goes on -- and it should go on long after that.