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Answer Man, Series 8, Volume 2

Posted Feb 20, 2012

The Buc fans’ inside man returns with another long Q&A session, touching on such subjects as Earnest Graham’s recovery, uniform regulations and college draft eligibility


If you were to skim ahead and (rudely) skip my usual introductory ramblings, you would see a question and answer below regarding some of the longest tenured assistant coaches in the NFL.  The query sent in by a West Coast fan going by the pseudonym (one hopes) of BuccanBobby put the spotlight on such well-known and long-running assistants as Jim Anderson, Hudson Houck, Howard Mudd, Sylvester Croom and Alan Lowry.

 

Due to the specific way the question was posed, new Tampa Bay Buccaneers Senior Assistant Jimmy Raye was not part of the answer, but he has had the same sort of decades-spanning career as those mentioned above.  Raye will be heading into his 35th season as an NFL coach this coming fall after officially rejoining the Buccaneers on February 15.

 

I say “rejoining” instead of simply “joining” because, as many Tampa Bay fans are aware, Raye’s career path has taken him through our town before.  In 1985 and 1986, he served as the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator, coaching for his fifth NFL team.  Prior to that, he had been with San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Rams, first ascending to a coordinator spot with the Rams.

 

After departing the Buccaneers, Raye would later find employment with Atlanta and the Rams again, as well as with New England, Kansas City, Washington, the New York Jets (twice), Oakland and San Francisco.  He has been an offensive coordinator for seven different teams.

 

I bring up the incredibly experienced coach because, as noted, the Buccaneers are now the third team that has brought Raye back for a second go-around.  The Answer Man finds that interesting, and it got me to thinking about other prominent figures in team history who have left and then later returned.  Here are the ones that immediately come to mind:

 

* RB Warrick Dunn: A first-round draft pick in 1997 and a Pro Bowler that same year, Dunn put in five very prolific years for the Bucs before signing a big free agent contract with Atlanta in 2002.  It was unfortunate timing for Dunn – the Bucs didn’t have the type of cap space at the time to match what Atlanta was offering – as Tampa Bay went to the Super Bowl that very same year under new Head Coach Jon Gruden.  Dunn certainly did well in Atlanta, however, cracking the 1,000-yard mark in three of his six seasons and pushing his career mark past 10,000 yards.  He came back for one more go-around with the Buccaneers in 2008 and recorded his final 786 rushing yards.

 

* TE Dave Moore: Moore rose from relative obscurity to a prominent place in the affections of Buccaneer fans.  He was signed midway through 1992 after being released by Miami, and while he was a perennial training camp “bubble” player for the next few seasons, he eventually developed into a very good tight end.  Moore also developed good long-snapping abilities (which helped him keep his bubble from bursting), and that led to his second stint in Tampa.  After leaving for the Buffalo Bills after the 2001 season (again with the bad timing), he then returned in 2004 to serve as the Bucs’ long-snapper.  He missed the Super Bowl fun but did cap his career with a Pro Bowl season in 2006 and is now a very popular member of the Buccaneers Radio Network game broadcast team.

 

* Doug Williams: Williams was the quarterback and team leader for the upstart Buccaneers teams that made the playoffs in 1979, 1981 and 1982.  He left in 1983 amid a contract dispute with the former owner, however, and later won a Super Bowl MVP award as quarterback of the Washington Redskins.  After a post-playing career highlighted by six years as the head coach at Grambling (where he returned to in 2011), Williams eventually came back to Tampa and spent seven years (2004-10) in the Bucs’ player personnel department.

 

* Steve DeBerg: An unusual and productive 18-year NFL career for DeBerg wound through such stops as Denver, Kansas City and Miami, but it stopped twice in Tampa.  His first stint as a Buccaneer (1984-87) coincided in part with the two-year tenure of future Hall of Famer Steve Young, so there was a lot of back-and-forth in the starting lineup for DeBerg.  He later returned in 1992 after some very nice years in Kansas City but started only three more games as a Buccaneer while splitting time with Vinny Testaverde and Craig Erickson.

 

* Dexter Jackson: The MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII for his two tide-turning interceptions in the first half, Jackson parlayed that performance into a big free agency contract with the Arizona Cardinals.  His stay in the desert lasted only one year, however, and the Bucs re-signed Jackson in 2004.  He was a reserve for most of that season but started 10 games for the Bucs in 2005 before moving on again, this time to Cincinnati.

 

* Chidi Ahanotu: The versatile defensive lineman was a big piece of the team’s dominant defenses between 1997-2000 (he arrived as a sixth-round pick in 2003), even getting the franchise tag in 1999.  He ranks fifth on the team’s all-time sacks list, a number he pushed to 34.5 during an eight-game return to the team in the middle of the 2004 season.  He had played for four other teams from 2001-04.

 

* Mike Shula: The son of legendary NFL coach Don Shula, this Alabama quarterback first came to the Buccaneers as a 12th-round draft pick in 1987.  His playing career lasted just one year but he then immediately joined the Buccaneers’ coaching staff as an offensive assistant for two seasons.  Stops in Miami and Chicago followed before the Bucs hired Tony Dungy in 1996 and Dungy brought in Shula to be his offensive coordinator.  Shula held onto that title for four seasons, through 1999.

 

* Brian Griese: Gruden brought Griese aboard in 2004 after the quarterback had spent five years in Denver and one in Miami, and an injury to Chris Simms gave him a shot to start about a month into the season.  Griese put up a stellar 97.5 passer rating that year and was off to a good start again in 2005 when his own season-ending knee injury gave Simms another chance.  Griese spent the next two years with the Bears but was then reacquired by Tampa Bay via trade for the 2008 season.  He started five games in ’08, his last year in the NFL.

 

* Mark Royals: The punter got his first extended shot to play in the NFL with the Buccaneers in 1990 and 1991 after getting into one game apiece with St. Louis and Philly in 1987.  He then spent seven years in Pittsburgh, Detroit and New Orleans before reclaiming the Bucs’ punting job in 1999.  Like Dunn and Moore, Royals’ timing was unfortunate as he left for Miami before the 2002 season.

 

* George Yarno: Yarno arrived in Tampa as an undrafted defensive lineman in 1979 but made the team as an offensive lineman and went on to start 65 games for the Bucs over the next nine years.  There was a small gap in his 1979-87 tenure with the team however; in 1984 he left to play for the Denver Gold of the memorable but short-lived USFL.  He came back to the Bucs in 1985, and also, several decades later, spent one season on the team’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2008.

 

There are others on the list of course, such as Micheal Spurlock, Jameel Cook and Jeff Gooch.  I think I’ve hit the most prominent ones, however.  If I missed somebody big, don’t hesitate to let me know.  Send it in to my e-mail box and I’ll put any worthy additions in my next column.

 

(By the way, click here to go to the page where you can send me questions, corrections or insults.)

 

Now that I’ve satisfied my own curiosity, let’s move on to your questions.

 

**

 

1. Burkey of Tampa, Florida asks:

Hey Answer Man... is Earnest Graham well yet? He was a big part of our success!

 

Answer Man: Well, Burkey, Earnest “Insurance” Graham tore an Achilles tendon on October 23, 2011 and subsequently had surgery to repair the rupture.  Since the recovery time for such surgery is generally at least six months, and often more, then Graham is not yet “well,” if by well you mean “fully recovered.”

 

But don’t take that the wrong way.  He is definitely doing well.  I just stopped by the training room to chat with the Bucs’ outstanding medical team (led by Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli, who has been in that post for a decade and a half now), and they assured me that Graham’s recovery is on target.  Like many players who suffer season-ending injuries during the fall, Graham will certainly have to devote some of his offseason to recovery, but I’m told he’ll definitely be ready to go when training camp starts in the summer.

 

And I agree that E.G., as you often hear him called around here, has been a big part of the Bucs’ success.  Believe me, he is thought of quite highly for all the different ways he has helped the team.  I pulled out that “Insurance” nickname because it speaks to how valuable his coaches have believed him to be through the years.  He can be your lead tailback, your fullback, your third-down back, a special teams ace, a mixture of those roles – through the years, he’s done it all and done it successfully.  He’s even thrown two touchdown passes in his career, the only non-quarterback in team history who can say that.

 

The Bucs were 4-2 when he went down with his injury in London against the Bears.  You know how the rest of the season went.  I certainly am not saying that the single loss of Graham doomed the Buccaneers’ 2011 season, but it clearly didn’t help.

 

To cover this topic fully, we should point out that Graham is due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13, if he does not re-sign with the team before that.  Obviously, he could also re-sign in Tampa after the free agency period begins, but at that point he would be free to sign anywhere else, as well.  There’s no way I can know what will happen with that issue, but I do know that everyone is confident that Graham will be fine for 2012, and ready for the start of training camp in the summer.  And that’s surely the news you were looking for, Burkey.

 

**

 

2 and 3. BuccanBobby of San Francisco, California asks, rather long-windedly, and with help from his wife:

Hello Again, Mr. Answer Man. Like the swallows of Capistrano, your return is celebrated. Let me begin by saying how proud I am to have been mentioned in your first column of 2012, as having previously submitted "one of the more interesting questions.” To be recognized for a prior submission, given the 10's of thousands you receive, it is truly an honor, Thank you! With the bar having been set high, I humbly submit this two part question...(1) We always hear about the winningest & losingest head coaches (# of games), I'd like to know who are the winningest and (if you have time) the losingest assistant coaches (who have never been a head coach) based on their teams won/lost records. If it doesn't get too confusing, due to constantly changing roles/responsibilities, it might be interesting to identify the winningest and losingest assistant from an offensive and defensive perspective. I'll graciously defer to you whether you want to do only currently active assistants or include all assistants dating back to the AFL/NFL merger. (2) In keeping with my previous submission tradition, please settle another "fashion-related" question for my wife. She believes that the "NFL Fashion Police" are getting lenient regarding hemlines and that some players are wearing pants that stop above the knee and clearly don't have the requisite padding/protection. She wants to know if there are league mandates requiring the minimal use of specific pads (knee pads, etc.), and, if not, could someone decide to play sans shoulder pads. Is there a limit that linemen may trim their sleeves? Where does the league draw the line with such things? Much thanks and keep up the great work! BuccanB.

 

Answer Man: And if my editors are watching my word count to make sure I’m not slacking this week, BuccanBobby just put me over the top.  Maybe you should write this thing, dude.

 

Actually, probably not, because you missed a perfect opportunity at a sly dig at my expense.  I would have said, “To be recognized for a prior submission, given the tens of e-mails you receive, it is truly an honor.”  You went for the butter-me-up approach, though, which admittedly seems like a good strategy to get your question in the column.

 

Or questions, plural.  That first one is a real doozy.  One of my favorite parts about starting a research project for one of these questions is coming up with the methodology for the search.  Usually, that involves ways of narrowing down the information that we’re looking for.  For instance, if we’re looking for all teams that have improved by seven or more wins from one season to the next, I know I can eliminate all teams with six or fewer wins in a season right off the bat.

 

This one, though, it’s just incredibly unwieldy.  Do you know how many men have been assistant coaches through the years?  Do you know of anywhere you can find them all listed in one spot?  No, I didn’t think so.  I started wading through some stuff on the very useful profootballreference.com site, but I just didn’t think I was getting a complete picture.

 

So I went back to read your question again and found two defining factors that make this possible, if not necessarily easy.  They are: 1) “who have never been a head coach,” and; 2) “I'll graciously defer to you whether you want to do only currently active assistants or include all assistants dating back to the AFL/NFL merger.”

 

Alright, guess which one I’m going to choose for #2?  As for #1, it does help eliminate a lot of long-time assistants right off the bat.  For instance, my first thought off the top of my head was Dick LeBeau, but a quick glance at his history reminded me that he was the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach from 2000-02.  By your parameters, he’s off limits.

 

So, to make this possible, I’m going to consider any assistant coaches in 2011 who have never been an NFL head coach.  The first thing to do is to find the guys who have been at the job the longest.  A coach who has only been at it two seasons, no matter good or bad his teams were, is not going to have the wins or losses of somebody who has been doing it for 12-15 years.

 

(In contrast, here was the methodology for answering your wife’s question: Go downstairs and ask the equipment guys.  I liked that one better.)

 

One other restriction: I’m not going to include strength and conditioning coaches.  That’s no knock on those guys; they’re always some of the hardest-working people in the building around here.  But it’s not a career path that generally leads to other coaching jobs, like coordinator or head coach, so I think it’s outside the bounds of what you’re looking for here.

 

About three teams into this research, I realized that a candidate was going to need at least 20 years on the job to have a shot at the title, and that made the search a little easier.  There were still a whopping 47 qualifiers, and I added up the career regular-season wins and losses (and a few ties) for all of them, even though it again became clear about halfway through that none of the guys in the 20 to 22-year range had a shot at the top spots.  Still, it made for a very nice and sortable list, from which I will give you the highlights.

 

First, here are the top 10 coaches on the list sorted by sheer volume of victories.  I’ve listed them with the team they coached for in 2011 and noted how many seasons they’ve coached in the NFL.  I had a column listing those by specific years, but it makes the table a little unwieldy, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that I got all of their years in their correctly.

 

Most Wins

 

Coach

11 TM

Yrs.

W

L

T

Howard Mudd

PHI

37

317

258

1

Dante Scarnecchia

NE

30

282

190

0

Alan Lowry

TEN

30

256

216

0

Michael Pope

NYG

29

251

210

2

Mike Westhoff

NE

29

237

218

1

Russ Purnell

JAX

26

231

184

0

Hudson Houck

DAL

29

231

232

0

Bruce DeHaven

BUF

25

222

177

0

John Teerlinck

IND

23

222

145

1

Chick Harris

HOU

31

220

268

0

 

Mudd, who was talked out of retirement last year by Philadelphia, is one of the most highly-respected coaches of the last four decades.  He has pretty much always coached the offensive line, and being with the Colts for a good part of their Peyton Manning-led run certainly pumped up his victory total.  The coach with the fewest years on this list, and thus the best winning percentage (.605) is John Teerlinck, who has also ridden the Colts train for the last decade.  Dante Scarnecchia is close at .597.

 

Now let’s look at the top 10 in losses.

 

Most Losses

 

Coach

11 TM

Yrs.

W

L

T

Chick Harris

HOU

31

220

268

0

Don Clemons

DET

27

164

267

0

Jim Anderson

CIN

28

182

264

1

George Catavalos

BUF

28

185

262

0

Howard Mudd

PHI

37

317

258

1

Bill Muir

KC

30

214

258

0

Hudson Houck

DAL

29

231

232

0

Mike Westhoff

NE

29

237

218

1

Alan Lowry

TEN

30

256

216

0

Michael Pope

NYG

29

251

210

2

 

A lot of the same names, for the obvious reason that these are the coaches with the most games coached, period.  In fact, every man on this list has at least 27 years in.  That’s why we shouldn’t look negatively at any of these coaches for being on this list.  They have obviously been considered very good coaches for a long time to continue getting work in the NFL.  It’s a competitive job market for everyone, coaches to players.  These guys have longevity, which means the losses are going to pile up eventually.  Do you know Cy Young, the pitcher for whom the award given to the best in the business is named every year?  Yeah, he holds the MLB record for most losses.  Nolan Ryan is third.

 

You also have to look at situations.  Take the man at the top of this list, Chick Harris.  The last two times Harris took a job with a new team, it was really a new team.  That is, he joined the Carolina Panthers in their inaugural year of 1995 and was with them until 2002, when he joined the Houston Texans in their inaugural year.  If you’re spending a good portion of your career helping expansion teams get off the ground, you’re going to accumulate some losses.

 

One more list the Answer Man finds interesting.  I took all 47 men in the survey and ranked them by their teams’ winning percentages while they were employed.  Here are the top 10:

 

Highest Winning Percentage

 

Coach

11 TM

W

L

T

Pct.

Dwaine Board

CLE

205

131

0

.610

Brian Pariani

HOU

195

125

0

.609

John Mitchell

PIT

204

131

0

.609

John Teerlinck

IND

222

145

1

.605

Dante Scarnecchia

NE

282

190

0

.597

Ivan Fears

NE

195

141

0

.580

Russ Purnell

JAX

231

184

0

.557

Bruce DeHaven

BUF

222

177

0

.556

Ron Meeks

CAR

186

150

0

.554

Howard Mudd

PHI

317

258

1

.551

 

Dwaine Board is not necessarily as recognizable a name as Howard Mudd or Hudson Houck.  But he sure has known how to pick a job (and, one presumes, done a fine job once he’s gotten there).  Board got on, um, board with the 49ers in 1990 and helped them win in double digits for his first nine years there.  When he left after the 2002 season, it was right before the 49ers began a long string of frustrating seasons.  He then joined Seattle, a franchise that hadn’t had a 10-win season in almost two decades and helped them top double digits in three of the next six years.  That has put Board on a very strong career winning path.

 

I’ve mentioned Houck a few times.  He’s currently in his second run with the Dallas Cowboys and has also coached for the Rams (back when they were in L.A.), Seahawks, Chargers and Dolphins.  Houck has coached for 29 years and, amazingly, has an all-time record of 231-232.  He had actually gotten his all-time mark over .500 with just two weeks to go this past year, but the Cowboys lost their last two games (and a playoff berth in the process).

 

Whew!  Alright, now we get to Mrs. BuccanBobby and her fashion-related question.  I hope nobody thinks that either BuccanBobby or I are taking a sexist tone by referring to her question in that manner; it’s obvious to me from the way the question is presented that she watches a lot of football and understands it, like many, many women out there.  The NFL has a very large female fan base, of which Mrs. Answer Man is also a card-carrying member.

 

So, like I said, to get this one answered I simply visited the team’s expansive equipment room downstairs, right across from the locker room, and picked the brains of Head Equipment Manager Jim Sorenson and his hard-working crew.  Turns out there’s a lot to what your better half has observed, BB.

 

In a way, she’s half right.  There are, of course, many regulations regarding a player’s uniform in the NFL, and it is (at times) policed very closely.  One of those things is the length of the pants; they are indeed supposed to extend past the knee.  Wearing pants that stop above the knee is an offense against the league’s uniform policy that can result in a fine.

 

Obviously, wearing pants that way makes it impossible to wear knee pads, but that is actually not against policy.  Players are not required to wear knee, thigh or hip pads, though all of those things are available to them and there are plenty of people in the league who think players should wear them.  Sorenson estimates that only about five or six current Bucs wear any of those types of pads, and they are all offensive linemen and running backs.  You’re simply not going to see a lot of defensive backs or receivers running around with extra pads on their legs; presumably they feel faster and more fluid without them.

 

As I said, there are a lot of people who think players should be wearing them, and some would like to see them made mandatory.  Kind of like the seatbelt law concept – legally forcing people to do the safe, smart thing.  In fact, a proposal to increase the number of mandatory pads in the uniform was before the Competition Committee before last season, but it did not pass.  The committee effectively tabled the idea for last year, but it’s possible they’ll consider it again during this offseason.  I don’t think it would be a very popular move among the players.  Of course, the committee may push forward with it anyway, in the interest of player safety, which is obviously and deservedly a hot topic right now.  This is what NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations said about the matter last year:

 

“It’s not mandated for 2010. But we anticipate we’ll need to mandate it going forward. We’re not going to relinquish on player safety. Particularly when we know we can prevent lost workdays and help players stay on the field. That’s to their benefit and the club’s benefit.”

 

That was said during the labor impasses last year, and the Answer Man doesn’t know if the final CBA agreement affected how unilaterally this issue could be imposed by the league.

 

Now, Sorenson notes that some teams have policies in place that make additional pads mandatory for the players, policies that come from the very top and are actually enforced.  He suggested the Chiefs are a team with such a policy, and indeed if you check out this article on ESPN.com and scroll down a bit, you can see in the picture of K.C. receiver Dwayne Bowe that he is wearing prominent thigh pads.  Of course, he also has no knee pads on and a separation has occurred between his pants and socks that the league does not want to see.  But you get the point.

 

On that latter point, Sorenson notes that, much like the way the current generation of baseball players favors pants that go all the way down to their cleats, most young NFL players favor shorter pants.  Apparently, the enforcement of fines on this issue is spotty at best, so players push it more and more.  Here’s an SIKids.com article with a picture of San Francisco running back Frank Gore and his exposed knees; good luck finding many pictures with Gore in action that do show his knees covered.

 

And even though there is some enforcement on uniform issues, obviously, some players simply factor that into the cost of their business.  They anticipate a couple uniform fines along the way and set aside funds each year to cover them.

 

As to another part of your wife’s question, BB, the players do have to wear helmets and shoulder pads and, to be honest, that’s never going to be a point of contention.  Nobody is going out there without those.  As she noted, however, the part of the pad that comes down over the shoulder and is covered by the sleeve is tolerated to varying degrees by certain players.  Many linemen, especially on the defensive side, do not like sleeves (they can be grabbed easily) but they have to have something in order to cover the pad.  You are not allowed to wear your uniform in a way that exposes the plastic pads (obviously, this sometimes happens during a course of a game but it is quickly corrected.  But you see increasingly trimmed sleeves these days, with just enough left to get over the pad.  Former Buccaneer DT Chris Hovan wore really clipped sleeves, but he also had the sleeves attached by Velcro to the pads underneath so they wouldn’t come lose and they couldn’t be grabbed.

 

There’s a little more leeway on the underside of the sleeve, so many players are going to sleeves that cut up high around the armpit.  Sorenson said that style is called a “defender’s jersey” and many players wear them in college and grow fond of them.  That will essentially be standard wear for the Bucs this upcoming year.

 

One determinant of sleeve length that the Answer Man had not thought about until Sorenson pointed it out is the uniform flourishes they have on them.  On the Bucs’ red jerseys from 2011, for instance, there was a Reebok logo and then the team’s secondary pirate ship logo underneath that, starting at the shoulder.  Obviously, the sleeves couldn’t be trimmed so far that they lost the necessary amount of real estate for those logos.  That can vary team by team.  Check out this ESPN.com photo of Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (the pride of USF!) in his white Giants jersey.  All that the Giants have on the sleeve of this jersey is stripes, which are pretty easy to manipulate if you want to make it shorter.

 

(With all these picture links, I feel kind of like Paul Lukas, the great uniform observer, though of course I don’t know even 1% of what he knows about uniforms.  He’s got a cool blog called Uni Watch if you want to check it out some time; some of its content appears on ESPN.com from time to time.)

 

**

 

4. Frank Zawe of Toronto, Ontario asks:

How many licks does it take to get to center of a tootsie pop?

 

Answer Man: If memory serves, three, if you’re an owl, at least.  Also, you do NOT get a free Tootsie Roll Pop sent to you if you send in your wrapper with a picture of a Native American and a star.

 

**

 

5. David Bruce of Colorado Springs asks:

Hello Answerman, love reading your articles as I'm a stat geek as well, but have a question about something you said in your last edition. In question 4, you replied with the statement, "In football, you can’t declare for the draft until you’ve been in college for at least three years." Is that accurate? My understanding is that to be eligible, a player didn't have to have been in college for 3 years, but rather out of high school for 3 years to ensure their body had time to mature before being subjected to the rigors of the NFL. Can you please clarify this? Thanks Answerman!

 

Answer Man: Those of you who have followed my on-again, off-again writing career for awhile know that I usually put any corrections right up at the very top of the page.  I don’t try to hide them.  In fact, while I hate making mistakes (or failing to get all the necessary information in the answer), I do enjoy the give-and-take when we flesh out a topic together.

 

The reason I didn’t do that with David’s e-mail is that this really wasn’t so much a mistake on my part as a convenient shortcut.  The way most people regard the eligibility rule for college players is that it now allows for them to declare after their junior season, if they so wish.  David is right, though.  More specifically, the rule allows players to enter the draft once they have been out of high school for three years.  Thus it is possible for a redshirt sophomore (or a random dude who didn’t go to college and decided three years later to pursue his NFL dreams) to declare for the draft.  Utah’s Paul Kruger did it in 2009, got drafted by Baltimore in the second round and has been a reserve lineman for the Ravens since.

 

Actually, here’s a more recent example: Aldon Smith.  Smith redshirted one season at Mizzou, set a school record with 11.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman and, after one more year that was clipped short by a leg injury, declared for the 2011 draft.  All he did was collect 14.0 sacks as a rookie for the San Francisco 49ers and come in just behind Denver’s Von Miller in the Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting.

 

Heck, there’s a handful of redshirt sophomores among this year’s class of eligible underclassmen, including LSU DT Michael Brockers and two of the more interesting running backs in the field, Miami’s Lamar Miller and San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman.

 

**

 

6. Eric of Tampa, Florida asks:

Who were the nine coaches the Bucs had?

 

Answer Man: I assume the timing and form of Eric’s question stems from the recent hire of Greg Schiano, who was introduced as the “ninth head coach in franchise history.”  So, actually, the question should probably be worded, “Who are the nine head coaches the Bucs have had?”  But I get the point.

 

Like I’m sure many long-time Buc fans can do as well, I can name them in order, from heart, without hesitation: John McKay (1976-84), Leeman Bennett (1985-86), Ray Perkins (1997-Game 13 of 1990), Richard Williamson (Game 14 of 1990-91), Sam Wyche (1992-95), Tony Dungy (1996-2001), Jon Gruden (2002-08), Raheem Morris (2009-11) and now Schiano.

 

Let’s take a brief look at each…

 

1. John McKay: The inaugural head coach and a member of the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium; took the team to the NFC Championship Game in just its fourth year of existence and retired after the 1984 season.

 

2. Leeman Bennett: A former head coach in Atlanta, had a thankless job replacing McKay and it didn’t go well, as the Bucs finished 2-14 in each of his two seasons.

 

3. Ray Perkins: Previously a head coach with the Giants and a member of Don Coryell’s coaching tree, Perkins got a second crack at the job with the Buccaneers in 1987.  The team drafted Vinny Testaverde first overall to begin Perkins tenure, but the combination never produced  a winning record and Perkins was let go 13 games into the 1990 season.

 

4. Richard Williamson: Williamson took over as the interim coach for the final three games of 1990 and then got the permanent title for the next season.  However, a 3-13 record doomed him to a short stay at the Bucs’ helm.

 

5. Sam Wyche: Arriving in 1992 after a mostly successful run in Cincinnati (including a trip to Super Bowl XXIII), Wyche brought a reputation as a football innovator to Tampa.  His four years at the Bucs helm were indeed unpredictable, but the team still failed to crack .500 and he was relieved after four years.

 

6. Tony Dungy: Dungy was the first head coaching hire by Malcolm Glazer, who purchased the franchise in 1995.  It launched Dungy’s fantastic NFL career, and Dungy turned around a team that had endured 15 straight losing seasons.  The Bucs made the playoffs in four of his six seasons but he was let go after a 2001 playoff loss in Philadelphia.

 

7. Jon Gruden: The Glazers pulled off a massive deal to get Gruden away from the Raiders (see a question about that just below), including the trade of four high draft picks in 2002-04.  It was immediately deemed to be worth it as Gruden led the team to its first NFL title in 2002, his first year at the helm.  Gruden’s teams also made the playoffs in 2005 and 2007 but his tenure ended at seven years after a late-season collapse by the team in 2008.

 

8. Raheem Morris: Morris and new General Manager Mark Dominik got their new positions at the same time, and immediately began a plan to revitalize the team with youth.  After predictably struggling in 2009 after massive roster turnover, the Bucs surprised the league with a 10-6 record in 2010.  A 10-game losing streak marred the 2011 campaign, however, and Morris was let go immediately afterward.

 

9. Greg Schiano: Schiano was named the ninth head coach in franchise history on January 26, 2012.  He comes to Tampa from Rutgers, where in 11 seasons he turned a team that had made it to one bowl game in its entire history into a perennial contender.  The Scarlet Knights went to six bowl games in Schiano’s last seven years, winning five of them.

 

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7. Michael Gaulden of Tampa, Florida asks:

Was former Bucs coach Jon Gruden the only coach to leave a team to coach another one, and then beat his former team in the Super Bowl the very next year ?

 

Answer Man: Yep.

 

After the aforementioned deal brought Gruden to the Buccaneers after four years as the Raiders’ Head Coach, the Bucs found themselves squared off against that Oakland squad (then coached by Bill Callahan) in Super Bowl XXXVII.  Tampa Bay won that game big, 48-21, and one of the more lasting stories of the week centered around Gruden’s knowledge of the Raiders’ offense.  Near the end of the team’s Thursday afternoon practice three days before the Super Bowl, Gruden stepped under center and ran the scout-team offense, emulating what he believed the Bucs’ opponent would do.  Buccaneer defenders later credited Gruden’s prescience with helping them know what was coming on game day.  Tampa Bay’s defense set Super Bowl records by picking off five passes and returning three of them for touchdowns.

 

Gruden remains the only person in NFL history to leave a head coaching job with one team and then immediately lead his new team to a Super Bowl victory over the former squad.  However, he’s not the only one on the list of you take away the “very next year” qualifier.

 

In January of 1969, the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.  Weeb Ewbanks, who had coached the Colts to two NFL championships before the advent of the Super Bowl, was the Jets’ coach for that game.

 

Bill Walsh led the San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowl wins over the Cincinnati Bengals, one of his former employers, but he had not been a head coach with the Bengals and neither win was in his first year with the 49ers.

 

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8. Brian of Tallahassee, Florida asks:

Could it be possible for someone to get a chance to coach in the NFL with no coaching time put in but has a ton of knowledge?

 

Answer Man: No coaching experience at all?  Well, I highly doubt it.  I mean, can you think of any profession where you can get a very high-ranking position without having any experience at all?  I’m not sure what would ever motivate an NFL team to hire a person to coach who had never coached before.  I’m not even demeaning your (or anyone’s) body of football knowledge, but there is a difference between knowing a lot of stuff about football and knowing how to coach people to play football well.  How would you demonstrate to your prospective employer, in an interview, that you can do the latter.

 

Now, one could read your question another way: Is it possible for someone to get a job as a coach in the NFL who has never coached in the NFL.  Obviously, that happens all the time.  The Buccaneers’ new Head Coach Greg Schiano came from the college ranks, though he’s not a good example for this discussion because he also has prior NFL coaching experience.  But he might end up hiring some assistants who only have NCAA experience; that happens all the time.  Tony Dungy’s first staff in 1996, Monte Kiffin notwithstanding, was chock full of names you now recognize but at the time were coming directly from the college ranks, with no pro experience – Rod Marinelli, Lovie Smith, Clyde Christensen.

 

The point I’m getting to is that many of these coaches actually started in high school.  Tampa Bay’s new special assistant to the head coach, Butch Davis, was a high school football coach for six years before he broke into the college ranks at Oklahoma State in 1979.  Schiano himself spent a year at his high school alma mater, Ramapo, in New Jersey before becoming a grad assistant at Rutgers.

 

If I were someone with a ton of football knowledge and a passion for coaching, I think I would try to start at the high school level.  If I found a particular affinity for the job, I might eventually be able to move up to the ranks, perhaps all the way to the NFL.

 

**

 

And, with that, I’m wrapping it up, but I’ll be back soon.  With all the developments at One Buc Place that have already happened and will soon happen – coaching hires, roster maneuvers, free agency, etc. – we’ll have plenty of topics to discuss, surely.

 

I know there’s one reader who has frequently sent in questions in the past who is at it again: Austin from Punta Gorda.  Austin, I liked both of the questions you recently submitted – one on scoring plays that take no time and one on the predictive power of game-opening field goals – but I just ran out of time this week because I spent so many hours researching assistant coach W/L records.  So you can blame BuccanBobby and his wife for the delay on your questions.  Tell you what, to make it up to you, I promise to answer BOTH of your submissions in the same column next time around.  Cool?

 

To everyone else, keep the questions coming.  It’s a long offseason.