Key assistants will be important for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on September 6, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Leftwich will try to refine Jameis Winston./TIM WIRT

Friday, 3 a.m.

Monte Kiffin worked here.

Behind the scenes, away from the cameras, Monte Kiffin lead the Bucs’ defense for more than a decade. He was the bridge between the success of Tony Dungy and the greater success of Jon Gruden. He was the frenetic mad scientist, staying up late nights with a sugar rush, trying to figure out a shot-cut for his blitzers.

Before that, Joe Gibbs worked here.

Gibbs, who reached the Hall of Fame by winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks, had an early job in Tampa Bay as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator in 1978. The Bucs, who had two wins in their first two season, jumped to five wins under Gibbs.

Wayne Fontes worked here, too.

Fontes, who won 66 games in nine seasons for the Detroit Lions, ran the defense in Tampa Bay. He was the defensive coordinator three seasons (1982-84).

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And so it has gone. A lot of football coaches have come through One Buc Place over the years, and some of them have been pretty darn good. Rod Marinelli. Mike Tomlin. Floyd Peters. Herm Edwards. Dirk Koetter (as an offensive coordinator).

The lesson is simple. Sometimes, it’s the sergeants who matter as much as the generals. It’s the day-to-day, hands-on coaches who set the tone, who teach the lessons, who develop the players.

In other words, if Bruce Arians is going to be a success as a head coach, it’ll have a lot to do with his key assistants: defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

Start with Bowles, who has the bigger challenge of the two. He has to change the scheme, and he has to take on a great group of quarterbacks, and he has to turn this defense around without star rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

“We’ll be ready on Sunday,” Bowles said.” Right now, you try to do all the little things to make sure we’re prepared — make sure that the guys are playing together, they can communicate and try to be as ready as you can for the first one.”

Communication will be important, but that doesn’t seem to bother Bowles.

“It’s not that complex,” said Bowles, the head coach of the Jets a year ago.
“We’ve been practicing since the spring. We’ve just got to continue to communicate and that’s going to be all 16 games — it’s not just the first game. We had to do that every day in camp. No matter what we do, we have to communicate. You can’t be on the field without talking to the guy next to you.

“I don’t want to say (which players have) impressed or surprised — that’s probably a Week 16 thing. I think they all work hard and they’ve all been pretty much attentive as far as communicating and doing the right things. As a group, as a whole, they’ve been coming together and the cohesiveness has to continue to come together. As long as that comes together, you don’t worry about the surprises or who shocked you. You kind of know the ability coming in, but as you teach them and as they gain information, and they apply it, you just look forward to that. That’s probably an after-the-season question more or less going into the season.”

On No. 1 draft pick Devin White: “Just the leadership and the maturity with him understanding the communication of what has to go on the defensing lining people up. That part for a rookie is not usually seen too much, but he does a great job at it. He understands and it’s not too big for him, so we’re very excited about that. The physical abilities will take care of themselves for him.”

On cornerback Vernon Hargreaves: “Vernon is an extremely smart player. He’s a very heady player (and) he understands a lot of things. I think Vernon can play in any scheme because he’s very good in zone, he’s very good in man and he can see what’s happening to him. It’s not even about our scheme, it’s about the guy just being a good football player and he’s made plays when he has had the opportunity, so we look forward to that come Sunday and the coming weeks.”

On outside linebacker Carl Nassib: “He’s a hard worker, first of all. He’s relentless when he goes off the ball. (He’s) extremely intelligent, always comes to practice ready to play (and) always has a smile on his face. (He has) multiple personalities — all good for football, so that’s a great thing. (He has a) great sense of humor — (he) doesn’t take himself too seriously and he just loves to play. Those are the type of guys you want to play with every day.”

Leftwich, who played quarterback for the Bucs (three starts in 2009), will be responsible for fine-tuning quarterback Jameis Winston.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll feel the same way (Sunday) I’ve felt in the past,” Leftwich said. “The great thing is I’ve been in these types of situations before as a player. They don’t get to tackle — they don’t actually hit me now. You just really focus in, just always constantly thinking about how to put your guys in a position to make plays — just making sure we’re practicing, doing the things we need to practice and just trying to rev the guys up, making sure we’re ready to play on Sunday. That’s really my only thought process as of right now.”

Soon, he will probably start talking about Winston, who has a history of turnovers.

“I can talk to him from different aspects,” Leftwich said. “I can talk to him from being the guy inside the pocket — what you’ve got to do [and] what you can’t do. I also can talk to him – I’m always up in the room — from a coach standpoint, just having an understanding of the system. That always gives me an opportunity to teach him the little nuances of what’s really going on. It’s not just everything on paper — you can’t play this position on paper. Sometimes, the three-technique is beating your guard. Sometimes, the defensive end is (beating the tackle). Sometimes, someone does this. Sometimes, a guy is holding onto your guy, so you have to be able to adjust. Just having an understanding of the offense and having an understanding of having to do this stuff before, it gives us a clear dialogue when we communicate so we’re always on the same page.”

Leftwich was pleased with what the Bucs managed in the preseason.

“Anytime you’ve got new systems on both sides, the more you can practice, the more you can get repetitions of everything, is always better,” Leftwich said. “I just think we’re getting closer. We’re coming together. Just watching the guys — the way they’re talking, the way they’re doing in the locker room — this is a close group of guys when you watch these guys interact with each other. That’s what I like about it the most — these guys are all in with each other. They are committed to each other. And, those are normally signs of pretty good football teams, but we’ll have to see. I just like the way these guys are handling every situation we’re putting in front of them. They’re doing a heck of a job of all that.”

On Mike Evans: “I don’t know if I’ve been around a guy this long that can run like Mike can run. People don’t realize how well Mike runs, how he can adjust to the ball and how his catch radius is really off the charts. For a guy that big to be able to do all the things that he can do — that’s special. That’s really unique. I’ve had the opportunity to coach Larry Fitzgerald, but Mike’s way taller. Mike’s a taller, thinner guy. Just to see him make some of the plays he makes – Mike’s a special guy — you all know that, you’ve all seen it. The unique things that he can do — for him to be a guy as big as he is — that’s what makes him the player that he is. He can do things that little guys can do, being that tall.”

On Evans against cornerback Richard Sherman: “Our number one guy is our number one guy. We’ve got a lot of respect for Sherm (Richard Sherman) just being in that division (with the Arizona Cardinals). I know what type of player he is. They’ve got a lot of good football players on that side of the ball, to be honest with you. We’ve got our hands full. We’ve got a lot of work to do here on Sunday, but it’s the game. You’re going to have this conversation every week. Every week, each team — this league is filled with players each week, so we respect what they’ve got. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sherm because I’ve coached against him and I’ve seen the plays that he makes, I’ve seen the way that he’s playing now, so we’ll see how that works out.”

The hope is that a solid staff, and a successful head coach, can help to turn the Bucs around.

Can they?

The proving starts Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Raymond James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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