Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin has led the Bucs to nine straight top-10 finishes in the NFL's defensive rankings
The most consistently excellent defense of the NFL's current era will remain under the direction of its primary architect in 2006.
In what is so far the best development of the new year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monte Kiffin confirmed on Friday that he intends to remain with the team. That had been in some doubt after the St. Louis Rams asked for and received permission to speak with Kiffin regarding their head coaching vacancy.
Kiffin had indicated on Thursday that he was contemplating the opportunity, but he eased the fears of Buccaneer fans on Friday by reiterating how much he enjoys his current calling.
"After further discussions today with Bruce Allen and Coach Gruden, I have decided to stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said Kiffin. "As I stated on Thursday, there is no doubt that this is a great place to coach. I like the makeup of our team and I'm looking forward to working with the returning players on defense.
"I appreciate the interest that the St. Louis Rams expressed in me and really think very highly of their organization, starting with John Shaw."
Kiffin first took over the Buccaneers' defense in 1996, helping the team improve from 27th to 11th in the league rankings in his first season. In 1997, the Bucs' defense leapt to third in the league, beginning a streak of nine straight seasons, through 2005, in which the team finished in the top 10. That is tied for the second-longest streak in the NFL's post-merger history, and is only one season behind the record. The Dallas Cowboys' famed defense of the 1970s put together a streak of 10 straight top-10 finishes.
Kiffin's defenses have ranked among the NFL's top five in seven of his 10 seasons at the helm. This year, the Bucs captured the top spot in the rankings for the second time in four years. The 2002 crew also captured the number-one ranking en route to the Super Bowl XXXVII title and is generally considered one of the best defenses in league history.
Kiffin's decision to stay is particularly good news during an offseason in which the Bucs will be reworking the defensive coaching staff. Defensive Backs Coach Mike Tomlin has departed to take on the defensive coordinator position in Minnesota, and Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Raheem Morris has moved on to the coordinator spot at Kansas State. Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli, who also joined the Buccaneers in 1996, has drawn interest from several teams searching for new head coaches or defensive coordinators.
Kiffin was similarly pursued after the Bucs' last number-one defensive finish. Shortly after Tampa Bay's Super Bowl victory, the San Francisco 49ers pursued Kiffin for their head coaching position. Rather than interview for that position, for which he was considered a favorite, Kiffin chose to sign a new contract with the Buccaneers.