One of three new members of the Bucs' coaching staff, Jim Caldwell spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at Wake Forest
When Tony Dungy was named head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, 1996, he quickly put together his coaching staff, placing an emphasis on assistants he believed would be good teachers. Five of those assistants had no previous NFL coaching experience.
The resulting staff grew together over the next five years, as only two positions needed replacements over that span. However, the inevitable turnover occurred in a rush after the 2000 season, with Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel's dismissal and the departure of Linebackers Coach Lovie Smith and Defensive Backs Coach Herman Edwards for more advanced positions elsewhere. Clyde Christensen's promotion to Offensive Coordinator shifted one of the vacancies to quarterbacks coach.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers replaced that trio of coaches all at once, and once again there is a decidedly collegiate flavor to the group. The new assistants: Jim Caldwell to coach the quarterbacks, Joe Barry to lead the linebackers and Mike Tomlin to teach the defensive backs.
Barry, who spent the past season as the San Francisco 49ers' quality control coach, is the only one of the trio with previous NFL experience, but his first six years of coaching occurred at UNLV, Northern Arizona and USC. Caldwell has spent more than two decades on the collegiate level, including the last eight as head coach at Wake Forest. Tomlin has six years of coaching on his resume, most recently at the University of Cincinnati.
"I've always felt that you could get some really excellent teachers from the college ranks," said Dungy. "That's what football coaching is. We feel like we've got three really good ones that not only know the game but know how to motivate and how to teach."
Caldwell served as head coach of the Demon Deacons from 1993 to 2000. In 1999, Caldwell led Wake Forest to its first winning season and the school's first bowl game since 1992, and the Deacons then defeated Arizona State 23-3 in the Aloha Bowl. During his tenure, Wake Forest ranked among the nation's Top 25 teams in passing offense on four different occasions, including 10th in the NCAA in 1995. That season, QB Rusty LaRue established seven NCAA passing records.
Before taking over at Wake Forest, Caldwell served as an assistant coach at Southern Illinois (1978-80), Northwestern (1981), Colorado (1982-84), Louisville (1985) and Penn State (1986-92). He first joined Penn State's staff as its wide receivers coach. He then coached quarterbacks the following season and added passing game coordinator responsibilities in 1988. At Penn State, Caldwell tutored QB Kerry Collins, who went on to win the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top college quarterback and the Maxwell Award as the nation's outstanding player. Caldwell has coached in six bowl games and won a national championship with Penn State in 1986.
"Jim has developed quarterbacks in college and taken guys from the very beginning as freshman to seniors," said Dungy. "He's been a head coach. He's got great organizational skills and I think he's going to be good for our quarterbacks."
If Dungy's staff is like a family that has grown together, than Barry should fit in quickly. Barry is the son-in-law of Buccaneers Defensive line Coach Rod Marinelli, having married Marinelli's daughter, Christine.
Before joining the 49ers last year, Barry spent the 1999 season coaching linebackers under John Robinson at UNLV. Prior to that, he worked with linebackers and defensive ends at Northern Arizona for three seasons from 1996-98. He was a three-year letter-winner as a linebacker at Southern Cal and then worked as a defensive graduate assistant for two seasons (1994-95) at USC. He served as a co-captain during his senior year in 1993.
Barry has also worked with the Buccaneers' coaching staff during training camp on several occasions.
"Joe had been around us and was familiar with how we did things," said Dungy. "He has an excellent background, playing at USC, then coaching in college and for the Niners. So we feel like we got a quality guy that's going to take right over and carry on the tradition that we've had of good linebacker play."
Tomlin joins the Buccaneers after serving two seasons at the University of Cincinnati as the Bearcats' defensive backs coach. At Cincinnati, Tomlin took over a secondary unit that ranked 111th in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 1998 and helped improve them to 61st overall in 1999. Prior to joining the Bearcats, Tomlin had a short stint on the coaching staff at Tennessee-Martin and then spent two seasons with Arkansas State, coaching the wide receivers in 1997 and switching to defensive backs in 1998.
Tomlin spent the 1996 season as a graduate assistant at the University of Memphis, working with the Tiger defensive backs and special teams units. In 1995, he began his coaching career as wide receivers coach at the Virginia Military Institute.
"Mike is a young, energetic guy," said Dungy. "He's done a great job at the University of Cincinnati the last couple of years. We feel like he's going to bring a lot of energy and, again, carry on the tradition that we've had in our secondary play."
Barry and Tomlin, in particular, have tough acts to follow, as Dungy indicated. Smith and Edwards helped mold the Buccaneers' linebackers and defensive backs into highly effective crews. Tampa Bay linebackers and defensive backs have made a combined 11 Pro Bowl appearances since 1997, including three this year (LB Derrick Brooks, S John Lynch, CB Donnie Abraham).
With Thursday's hirings, the Buccaneers have just one remaining vacancy on the staff at offensive assistant.