Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, was watching film and standing by his phone early Friday as his first real birthday in four years rolled around
As they do every year, Bruce Allen and the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' player personnel staff welcomed the midnight start of free agency from behind their desks at team headquarters. Allen and company had their phones at the ready, prepared to spring into action the moment the NFL player market opened at 12:01 a.m. on Friday morning.
Also burning the midnight oil in order to ring in the new (league) year: Head Coach Jon Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. Think that's not a big deal? Well, the clock's turn to 12:01 also signaled the arrival of Kiffin's birthday…and this is a man for whom birthdays don't come along too often.
Check the calendar: Yep, Friday is a Leap Day. We've delayed flipping the calendar into March, instead moving on to February 29th as we do every four years. Kiffin is one of those lucky(?) souls who just happens to have been born on a previous February 29th, which means his special day tends to disappear on him most years.
Sitting in his corner office at One Buccaneer Place in the first few minutes of his rare birthday, watching film and manning his phone, Kiffin didn't seem to mind the muted celebration.
"I don't know exactly but I think is my 15th birthday or something," said Kiffin with a chuckle. "I don't mind being here because this is an exciting time to be at work. To me, the start of free agency every year is like my birthday."
Of course, those who know Kiffin, even if only by reputation, shouldn't be surprised. As many are aware, there are few things the Bucs' celebrated defensive coordinator would rather be doing than working on some sort of football strategy. Whether it's designing defensive Xs and Os the night before a contest or, as in this case, scouring game film and helping to recruit the team's targeted free agents, Kiffin is always game for a little football.
Actually, that description fits the Buccaneers' entire football staff. Lights were burning all throughout One Buccaneer Place on Thursday night and Friday morning, including those in the offices of such coaches as Kiffin and Gruden.
"The leadership on this team is dedicated to the success of the Buccaneers," said General Manager Bruce Allen, who also enjoys the late-night start of free agency every year.
Add that to the list of features that should attract free agents to Tampa. It's a long and persuasive list.
Start with those headquarters that were wide awake throughout the first night/morning of free agency. For 30 years, when the Buccaneers succeeded they did so in spite of of their digs, as the old One Buc Place was one of the league's least impressive facilities. The new One Buc is the finest headquarters in the league, outfitted with the latest in training tools, video equipment and every sort of NFL-related technology. Now, when Buccaneer officials welcome prospective signees to Tampa, they can give them a tour of their potential new home with unrestrained pride.
The modern Bucs have a history of success, too, having captured the Super Bowl title in January of 2003 and won three division titles in the past six years. They are won of only four teams to have made the playoffs in seven of the last 11 seasons. This year's Bucs are the defending NFC South champs.
Any free agents that swing through town in the next few days and weeks will also surely notice the favorable weather, such as the brilliant blue skies that graced the Bay area on Thursday. And if the bottom line is more important than the sky above to any particular free agent, let's not forget that Florida has no state income tax.
The Bucs also play their home games at one of the league's best and most distinctive stadiums, in front of Bay area crowds that have sold out every game since 1998. More importantly to the players, the Raymond James Stadium field is annually named the NFL's best playing surface in a poll of the players.
But none may be more important than unlimited time and effort the Buccaneers' staff and coaches are willing to put into every aspect of the team's preparations. Allen and his staff, Gruden, Kiffin – all are genuinely thrilled to be spending the night jumping into the free agency waters. Or, in Kiffin's case, Leaping in.