Duffner hopes to make a difference for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on October 18, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Duffner takes over the defense for the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

As the mire has spread for the Tampa Bay Bucs, he has been a voice in the room.

He was part of the coaching staff that has led to an abysmal defense over the past two seasons. He was part of the planning that failed to stop opponents. He was part of the decision-making that has led to this mess.

Now, the Tampa Bay Bucs look to Mark Duffner to fix things.

Of course they do.

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It is one of the problems with dumping a coordinator in mid-season. Usually, you fire an architect, and you replace him with an assistant architect. You get a new voice, but no new leadership.

Still, the Bucs are hopeful that Duffner can make a difference. After all, he cannot do much worse.

“When I first came into the league in Jacksonville in (2007), Duff was on the staff in Jacksonville and way back (1994)," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "I’m coaching at Boston College.

"Duff is renowned in the Northeast for his work as a head coach at Holy Cross. He’s in the Hall of Fame there. Then he gets the head job at Maryland. Duff’s done a lot in his career. He’s been coaching a long, long time and he’s still got really good energy. He’s got a lot of knowledge, a lot experience. For a guy that’s been around as long as him, he’s got a lot of energy. Both places where I’ve worked with him, his players have really liked him and respected him. Respect is more important than like and he’s a good teacher and he’s a good football coach.”

Think of it as an orchestra replacing its director, but keeping the same old musicians. That's pretty much what it's like.

"He puts in a lot of time," Koetter said. "He puts a lot of time in free agency — getting to know guys, trying to recruit guys. At the combine, Duff’s one of those coaches that if there’s 40 linebackers at the combine, he’s meeting with every one of them and comes away with a relationship with him. It’s always amazing, when it comes down to signing undrafted guys, how many times that’s made a difference.”

Koetter said he wasn't going to bring in a defensive consultant.

“I’m not a big a believer in consulting," Koetter said. "I’m not a big consulting guy because guys that are in the building, they’ve got skin in the game. Consultants are like TV announcers. They go in at night and they don’t care who wins or loses. People that are really just giving you their opinions, you’ve got to really respect that person if they don’t have skin in the game. I have a lot of respect for a lot of coaches, but I’m just not a big believer in that. When we’re up there working on the game plan — offense or defense — it’s not like you’re up there thinking, ‘Oh my god, I wish I had more ideas.’ There’s plenty of ideas.

"When you start trying to put those ideas in motion, now you’ve got to start playing all the what if games. Ok, what if they do this? What if they shift? What if they motion? What if they change personnel? What if they come out in this defense? I just don’t know if there’s big value in that. If you add up the years of experience we have on the defensive guys that are still up there, we’re fine. We’re fine as far as that goes.”

Duffner said his positive attitude will help.

“That’s just been how I approach life," Duffner said. "That’s my personality, so I hope it’s been a big part of it with them. I believe we live each day to the fullest. If it’s drinking water or coaching linebackers or whatever it is, I’m going to do the best I can and have the most fun doing it. That’s where I’m at on that.

“I believe our approach has always been we play defense as aggressively as we possibly can. That doesn’t define meaning necessarily all blitz or pressure. That means that you play hard, that you play physical, you play smart — all those words kind of go into that word, ‘aggressive’. You can play aggressive coverage and be in zone defense. You can play aggressive run defense and not be in a pressure situation, so I think aggressive and physical is what we’ve got to be on defense. Defense has no room for being soft.”

For years, Duffner worked alongside legendary defensive coach Dick LeBeau.

“I've learned a lot from a lot of coaches," Duffner said. "I’ve been blessed from the very beginning being with Woody Hayes and having the chance to learn from him as a 21-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears coach.

"Certainly, all of them have had a big impact on me. Coach LeBeau did in a big way. I had the privilege to work with him for six years and on a daily basis learned from him. In the transition from being a college coach for 22 years and I had been a coordinator for nine and head coach for 20 years I guess and a head coach for 11 and now I’m in the NFL.  I couldn’t have had a better mentor if you will to be under and learn from than Coach LeBeau. Many, many, many other coaches that I’ve had the privilege to be with.

“Anything you’re involved with, I think it’s all much better for everybody involved if you show care. If your players know that you care about them, I think they’re going to respond in a positive way. They know if it’s genuine or not. I love what I’m doing. You get a chance to see people in a lot of different scenarios where you can assist them in terms of whether it’s off the field or on the field in terms of interaction with them and really getting to know them. How lucky have I been? Geez. It’s been unbelievable.”

Duffner will have to slow down rookie sensation Baker Mayfield when his team plays the Browns on Sunday.

“I think that first of all I see a guy that’s also energetic," Duffner said. "He plays with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of confidence. As far as what we’re going to have to do it comes back to again improving our skills in terms of fundamentals so that we can execute. Shoot, he’s a pro football quarterback, NFL quarterback who’s a first round pick. Wouldn’t be there if he didn’t have things pretty special about him. We certainly have a challenge with that in front of us.”

Duffner will try to juice a defense that is allowing 340 yards per game (31st in the league) and 34.6 points (last in the league on a per-game basis).









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