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There's no slowing Bucs' Mr. Excitement

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 5, 2001


He is Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. A vibrant man. A charismatic man. A man who is so energized, he uses coffee to calm down. Here are his thoughts on being obsessed, coaching philosophies, going up against Tony Dungy and more:

RM: You're always going 90 mph, do you ever come down?

MK: When my head hits the pillow at night, I come down. I have a hard time in between.

RM: So you're thinking football when you're brushing your teeth?

MK: I'll tell you this, if I'm driving down the street and another coach is in the car with me and we're talking ball, I'm not watching the traffic lights.

RM: The moral here is that you shouldn't be on the road during the season.

MK: If we're talking ball I can get excited just driving down the street. Might miss a left turn.

RM: Do you feel blessed with players like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch?

MK: No doubt about it. It's about players and talent. If you think it's all about coaching, then you've got problems. You're not going to last long. Now, if you have talent, you can goof it up. There are a lot of talented teams that don't play well. RM: How do you goof it up?

MK: I think that goes back to the person you are, what your philosophies are. As a coach, you have to learn who you have and whoever you have is what you are.

RM: Right now you're missing one of your best talents.

MK: When you have a Brooks or a Sapp or a Lynch, that makes your job easier. But, if you don't or that player gets hurt, the next guy steps up. I don't want to hear, "Oh, now we can't do it." I'm not going to tolerate that approach. RM: Would you take a head-coaching job?

MK: If the right opportunity presents itself, I certainly would.

RM: Are there any restrictions on where you coach?

MK: I don't care where it is. I tell you what the most important thing is and it's the organization. It's the general manager, the ownership. When you're a head coach, you have to have a total trust and commitment from those people. Don't just take a head-coaching job just to be a head coach. That might be real short-lived. RM: You realize that you're the antithesis of Tony Dungy.

MK: Tony and I are completely different. But yet, I have tremendous respect for Tony and I would like to think Tony has tremendous respect for me. When Tony was looking to hire his staff, he didn't need 10 Tony Dungys. If I'm hiring a staff, I'm not hiring 10 Monte Kiffins.

RM: Would you sling it around on offense?

MK: Whatever it takes. Get the damn thing in the end zone. I don't care how it's done. ... A wide-open offense is great, but a wide-open offense isn't any good if you're throwing it to the wrong people.

RM: Would you be a better head coach than Tony?

MK: Oh! Right now, he's on a pretty good run.

RM: So, say you get a head-coaching job and your first matchup is against Tony. You're beating him?

MK: I'm going to tell you what, if I'm going against Tony, I'm going to beat him. It's not going to be easy. ... I would just as well keep Tony off the schedule.

RM: What would the game be like?

MK: He'll be thinking what I'm thinking he'll be thinking I'm thinking. There'll be a whole lot of thinking and outthinking.

RM: What's more important, speed or size?

MK: Give me speed. Now I've got nothing against big guys with speed, but give me speed first. We're usually, average across the line, the smallest team in the NFL. That doesn't mean I don't want the big guy who is 6 feet 5, 285 and runs a 4.6 (40-yard sprint). Are you kidding me? But I'm not going to sacrifice speed for size.

RM: Tell me about former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who is a close friend.

MK: It's funny, but Tom is very, very similar to Tony Dungy. They are both very strong Christian men. I have never heard Tom swear. Never heard Tony swear. I have never seen Tom take a drink. Never seen Tony take a drink. I have a great respect for both men.

RM: I heard your coaching debut (defensive backs coach at Nebraska) wasn't pretty.

MK: Yeah, we got beat 31-21 by USC, which scored on two long bombs. After the game Coach (Bob) Devaney says, "Let me tell you young pup something, right now. We don't get beat deep like that. I don't ever want to see us get beat deep like that."

RM: And?

MK: The next week we played Wake Forest and you couldn't find our corners in the frame of the film. They were that far back.

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