As the team's first head coach, it makes sense John McKay is enshrined along the bowl inside Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in the Buccaneers Ring of Honor. As the head coach during the team's first Super Bowl championship, it makes sense Jon Gruden is in there, too.
Now, long-time Buccaneer defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, also with the Bucs during that Super Bowl run along with being the architect of one of the best defense's the league has ever seen, will witness his name alongside the two aforementioned head coaches as he becomes the first assistant coach to receive the honor.
It will be made even more special that after a season filled with challenges in 2020, this ceremony will take place in front of what should be a packed house on September 19 as Tampa Bay takes on the Atlanta Falcons in Week Two. So special, in fact, that at a press conference on Wednesday held at the AdventHealth Training Center, Kiffin was already anticipating getting emotional.
"It's got about bring a tear to your eye but I'm not gonna do that," Kiffin said about the moment he'll see his name in the Ring of Honor. "It should be emotional, but that's pretty special. It really is. And it's all about the fans. I talked about the players and this and that. How about the fans in this place? They can get you to rock and now they will get me excited.
"It's a great sports town, that's quite evident right now."
View photos from former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's Ring of Honor Induction Speech.
It would have been evident back in Kiffin's years in Tampa, too, which spanned from 1996-2008. Kiffin is the Bucs' longest tenured coach in team history, working under two separate head coaches while he conceptualized a defense that would spread like wildfire throughout the league and long outlast even his lengthy coaching career:
The Tampa 2.
Working alongside then Head Coach Tony Dungy, the pair implemented the now infamous Tampa 2 defense, which is largely credited with earning the Bucs their Super Bowl XXXVII victory. In Kiffin's first season, he took the Bucs from the 27th ranked defense in 1995 to 11th following the 1996 season. Of course, having first-round picks like Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp in their second year surely helped, too.
During Kiffin's 13 years with the franchise, Tampa Bay's defense ranked in the top 10 in all but two of those seasons in yards allowed and in points allowed all but once. They were the NFL's best defense twice, including 2002, when Kiffin coached the likes of Brooks, Sapp, Rondé Barber, John Lynch, Shelton Quarles and others. He was recognized for his efforts that season, being named Assistant Coach of the Year by both Football Digest and the Pro Football Writers Association after his unit became the first since the 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the league in points allowed (196), yards allowed per game (252.8) and interceptions (31), including an inconceivable five interceptions in the Super Bowl alone.
Under Kiffin, eight different Buccaneer players made a combined 36 Pro Bowls, while six players earned All-Pro honors. Both Brooks and Sapp also earned Defensive Player of the Year awards while playing for Kiffin.
"I think that's the whole thing with coaching is just be real," Kiffin said Wednesday. "It's about the players; being a great teacher. Don't just [say] how do you get your [rear] in gear, show them how to do it."
And with members of the press and former players like Quarles, Booger McFarland, Mike Alstott and Jimmie Giles looking on in the auditorium of AdventHealth Training Center looking on, Kiffin stuck to his coaching philosophy.
"Now let me tell you something," said Kiffin. "It doesn't take talent to play hard, okay. It's right here in the heart. Play together as a team. Play hard, play fast […] If you can't play as a team, you don't belong with this defense. That's just my philosophy and it will never change."
It's now largely because of that defense (and defensive philosophy) that Kiffin will become the 14th member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor. He will be honored during a halftime ceremony on Sunday, September 19, as the Bucs play the division-rival Atlanta Falcons at home.