Monte Kiffin's defense has allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL during his 12 seasons as the coordinator
Those looking to pinpoint the events that led to the resurrection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise – Malcolm Glazer's purchase of the team in 1995, the astute selections of Head Coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, the drafting of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, etc. – can also put a mark on this date: January 30, 1996.
That's the day the Buccaneers named Monte Kiffin their new defensive coordinator.
The rest is history…a history that, remarkably, includes 10 top-10 finishes in the NFL defensive rankings in the last 11 years.
Now Buccaneers fans can look forward to more of Kiffin's mastery. On Friday, the team announced that Kiffin has signed a contract extension to remain the team's defensive coordinator.
As is team policy, details of the agreement were not disclosed.
Kiffin's extension, which is extremely good news for the Buccaneers on its own, continues a very strong start to the offseason by the 2007 NFC South Champions. Earlier in January, General Manager Bruce Allen revealed that the team had also finalized new deals to keep Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Bill Muir and Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia on board.
Following a 2007 season in which the Buccaneers made significant gains in all three phases of the game, assuring the returns of Kiffin, Muir and Bisaccia was considered a priority. That mission is now accomplished.
All three coordinators have been with the team during Gruden's entire tenure, which includes three division championships in six years and the franchise's first Super Bowl victory in 2002.
"We are pleased to announce that our three coordinators have signed extensions to remain with the Buccaneers," said Allen. "This unprecedented consistency is a tribute to the organization and our coaches."
Kiffin will head into his 13th season with the Buccaneers, having already indelibly placed his mark on team and NFL history. The Bucs' string of nine straight top-10 defenses from 1997-2005 equals the second-longest such run in the NFL since the 1970 merger. The lowest the team has finished in those rankings during Kiffin's tenure was 17th, the 2006 result that was bracketed by first and second-place finishes in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Even in his first season of 1996, Kiffin helped a defense that stood 22nd the year before rise all the way to 11th.
A veteran of 25 seasons in the NFL, Kiffin is considered the modern architect of the 'Cover 2' defense, which is now widely known as the 'Tampa 2.' The basics of the scheme are now widely imitated throughout the NFL, but nowhere have they been applied to such consistently excellent effect as in Tampa.
In the 12 years since Kiffin took over as the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay has had the league's stingiest defense, whether you choose to define it by points or yards. From 1996 through 2007, the Buccaneers allowed 285.2 yards and 17.2 points per game, both the lowest marks in the NFL over that span.
Under Kiffin, Buccaneer defenders have earned 34 Pro Bowl invitations in 12 years. Many of those, of course, belong to such all-time Tampa Bay standouts as Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. However, Kiffin's schemes have remained effective as the cast of characters has changed. In 2007, the Bucs had seven new starters on defense, including rookies Tanard Jackson and Gaines Adams. Moreover, only two defenses have allowed fewer yards over the last five seasons combined than the Buccaneers' unit – Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Before settling in with the Buccaneers, Kiffin spent one year as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans. He held the same post with the Vikings in 1991, the first of his four years in Minnesota. Kiffin has also served on the staffs of the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers. Prior to coming to the NFL with Green Bay in 1983, he spent 17 years as a coach in the collegiate ranks, including the last three as the head coach at North Carolina State.
Tampa, however, has become Kiffin's long-time home. Fortunately for the Buccaneers and their fans, that's not going to change any time soon.