It has been quite a week for Mike Sullivan, the long-time assistant for the New York Giants. In the span of six days he has earned the two most coveted things for any coach in the National Football League: A Super Bowl Championship ring and the next great challenge.
On Friday evening, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the hiring of Sullivan as their offensive coordinator under new Head Coach Greg Schiano. Sullivan, the Giants’ quarterbacks coach, was still basking in the glow of New York’s 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday.
The Buccaneers clearly coveted an offensive leader with the experience and proven ability of the Giants’ respected coach, who has spent the last eight years bringing the best out of the quarterbacks and receivers in New York. Sullivan most recently coached Eli Manning and the Giant passers in 2010 and 2011 after six seasons in charge of the team’s wideouts.
“We are very fortunate to add someone like Mike Sullivan to lead our offensive coaching staff,” said Schiano, who was introduced as the Buccaneers’ ninth head coach on January 26 and has since been working tirelessly to construct his coaching staff. “He is a man of character and a complete football coach who fits with the kind of football team we are building here. His work with the Giants over the past eight seasons speaks for itself. Mike was an integral part of that team winning two Super Bowls in the last five years and we look forward to him bringing that experience and expertise to our club.”
Indeed, Sullivan brings two championship rings to Tampa, as the Giants also triumphed over the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII. In that season, Sullivan was the team’s wide receivers coach, and his group had a very memorable season, capped by David Tyree’s signature catch on the game-winning drive and the final TD grab by Plaxico Burress.
Most recently, Sullivan has helped former number-one-overall draft pick Eli Manning take his game to a new level that has put the eight-year veteran among the NFL’s top all-time performers. Manning threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his two seasons under Sullivan’s tutelage and totaled 60 TD passes in that span. His 2011 campaign was one of the most productive in league annals.
This past season, Manning set single-season franchise records in both completions (359) and passing yards (4,933), the latter of which ranked as the sixth-highest mark in NFL history. In two years with Sullivan as his position coach, Manning compiled the top two single-season completion totals and two of the top five passing yardage and touchdown pass marks in Giants history.
Sullivan has been credited with outside-the-box coaching efforts in coaxing the best out of Manning and the Giants passing game. He often devised drills that forced his quarterbacks to complete passes under adverse and unexpected conditions, and Manning’s clutch performances during the postseason seemed to bear that emphasis out. In the Super Bowl this past Sunday, Manning completed 30 of 40 passes (75%) for 296 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 103.7 passer rating and was named the game’s MVP.
During his six years as the Giants’ wide receivers coach, Sullivan helped develop some of the most prolific pass-catchers in franchise history. Both Plaxico Burress (twice) and Steve Smith recorded 1,000-yard seasons during Sullivan’s tenure as New York’s receivers coach, and both Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham began their respective ascensions under Sullivan’s tutelage. During his final season with the receivers, in 2009, Sullivan got 1,220 yards out of Smith, 822 out of Manningham and 790 out of Nicks, with a combined 18 touchdowns from the three. New York’s passing game produced a hefty 4,019 yards and 28 TDs on the year.
Sullivan actually began his NFL coaching career on the other side of the ball, as a defensive quality control coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002. He switched to offensive assistant in 2003 and then was hired by the Giants the next season by Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
A nine-year coaching career on the collegiate level preceded Sullivan’s jump to the NFL. He started with Humboldt State in 1993 and later moved on to Army (1995-96), Youngstown State (1997-98), Army again (1999-00) and Ohio University (2001). In 1997, while at Youngstown State, Sullivan coached under Jim Tressel as the Penguins won the Division 1-AA National Championship. At Ohio University, he coached the defensive backs and tutored the kick blocking units on special teams.
Sullivan was a defensive back at Army, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1989. He also has a master’s degree from Humboldt State. Sullivan is a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger and Air Assault schools.