Larry Coyer led Denver's defense to consecutive top-four finishes in the league rankings in 2003 and 2004
Larry Coyer's coaching career has spanned four decades and taken him everywhere from Marshall to Denver, with stops in between at outposts in the NCAA, USFL and NFL. In 2006, it took him and his Denver Broncos to a place no NFL team has been in 64 years.
And now it takes him to Florida. On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers named Coyer the team's new assistant head coach/defensive line coach, completing the changes to its defensive staff for 2007. Coyer replaces Jethro Franklin in terms of working with the defensive line and assumes the same title previously held by Rod Marinelli, who preceded Franklin.
Coyer spent the last four seasons as the Broncos' defensive coordinator leading his squad to two top-10 league rankings and four straight top-half finishes. The Broncos had the league's fourth-ranked defense in both 2003 and 2004 before finishing 15th in 2005 and 14th this past season. From 2003-05, the Broncos gave up the fifth fewest points in the league, and they tied for eighth in that category in 2006.
Coyer's crew got off to a remarkable start in '06, becoming the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to not allow a touchdown over the first 11 quarters of the season. Overall, Denver allowed only two touchdowns during its first six games as the team opened with a 5-1 record en route to a 9-7 finish. Before Denver's efforts in 2006, the last team to go 11 quarters into a season without allowing a touchdown was the 1942 Chicago Cardinals.
The Broncos missed the 2006 playoffs thanks to a season-ending loss to San Francisco. However, they qualified for the postseason in each of Coyer's first three years as the defensive coordinator.
In Tampa, Coyer will take over a defensive line that should prove to be a focal point during the offseason. After a remarkable run of nine straight seasons with a top-10 defensive ranking, the Bucs slipped to 17th in 2006, their lowest finish since 1995. While the defense appeared to improve as the season went along, it was hamstrung throughout the campaign by its inability to generate pressure on the passer. General Manager Bruce Allen identified that issue as one of the team's two main problem areas during the 2006 season.
Though he was a linebackers coach in Denver for three years (2000-02) before rising to defensive coordinator, Coyer has coached defensive line in the NFL before. He held that position with the New York Jets in 1994 under Head Coach Pete Carroll. After that season, he returned to the college ranks for five years, serving as the defensive coordinator at Iowa State (1995-96) and Pittsburgh (1997-99).
Coyer began his coaching career in 1965 at his alma mater, Marshall, where he is a member of the Football Hall of Fame. He spent three seasons at Marshall before moving on to stints at Bowling Green (1968-73), Iowa (1974-77), Oklahoma State (1978), Iowa State (1979-82), UCLA (1987-89), Houston (1990), Ohio State (1991-92) and East Carolina (1993). Along the way, he coached every position on the defense and was the coordinator at seven different spots.
Between his first stop at Iowa State and his move to UCLA, Coyer coached in the short-lived USFL, first with the Michigan Panthers and then with the Memphis Showboats. As linebackers coach, Coyer helped the Panthers win the USFL's first title in 1993 before moving on to serve as defensive coordinator for the Showboats in 1985.
The Buccaneers will go into 2007 with new coaches at each of the three primary defensive positions under coordinator Monte Kiffin. Raheem Morris, an assistant on the Bucs' staff from 2002-05, left his defensive coordinator position at Kansas State to replace Greg Burns as Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach. The Bucs also promoted Casey "Gus" Bradley from defensive quality control coach to linebackers coach after the departure of Joe Barry.