"As a coach with a background in offense, it was imperative to find the best defensive coordinator we could," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "We feel we got the best defensive coach at any level. The addition of Coach Kiffin not only puts us in position to play great defense, but also gives us the ability to sign the best defensive players in the nation if they want to prepare for the NFL every year they are here."
Monte Kiffin was a catalyst for Tampa Bay's 2002 Super Bowl championship and coached units that ranked among the NFL's top 10 in both total defense and points allowed in 11 of his 13 Buccaneer seasons.
His Super Bowl champion unit became the first since the 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the league in total defense (252.8 ypg), fewest points allowed (196) and total interceptions (31). Kiffin's crew continued its impressive play in the 2002 postseason, allowing just 16 points in victories over San Francisco and Philadelphia, before turning it up a notch in Super Bowl XXXVII. During the Buccaneers' 48-21 win over Oakland, Tampa Bay recorded a Super Bowl-record five interceptions, including three picks that were returned for touchdowns (also a Super Bowl record). Kiffin's charges added five sacks and allowed only 19 total rushing yards in capping one of the most dominating defensive performances in Super Bowl history.
Kiffin now returns to the collegiate ranks at Tennessee, where, in fact, he previously considered a position with the Vols under then head coach Johnny Majors.
"I was last here in 1983 when I was under consideration for the defensive coordinator's job," Kiffin said. "I chose instead the Green Bay Packers to start my NFL career, but this was an impressive place. Now that I'm back 25 years later, it's bigger and even more amazing than I remember.
"It is more than just the facilities, though. I felt it when I arrived at the airport and no one even knew who I was. I could just feel what it means here to be a Tennessee Volunteer. I've never coached when there have been 102,000 fans watching us play. And what's really great is these 102,000 fans will be Tennessee fans and this will be our home field. I can't wait."
A native of Lexington, Neb., Kiffin was his state's High School Athlete of the Year in 1958. Then after playing collegiately for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1959-63 as both an offensive and defensive tackle, Kiffin sat out one season with a knee injury before taking a turn at defensive end for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
He then began his coaching career in 1966 at his alma mater under a pair of legends in Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. Kiffin first helped command the Big Red defense to consecutive national titles in 1970 and 1971. When Osborne became Nebraska's head coach in 1973, Kiffin was named defensive coordinator. Kiffin moved to Arkansas as defensive coordinator under Lou Holtz from 1977-79, including one season as assistant head coach. The Razorbacks led the nation in scoring defense in 1977.
Kiffin was head coach at North Carolina State from 1980-82, compiling a 16-17 record that included winning seasons in 1981 and 1982.
From there, it was on to the professional ranks, including stops with the Green Bay Packers under Bart Starr in 1983, the Buffalo Bills from 1984-85, the Minnesota Vikings from 1986-89 and the New York Jets in 1990. Kiffin then returned to the Vikings, first in his initial professional role as defensive coordinator in 1991 before spending the 1992-94 seasons as inside linebackers coach. The 1995 campaign as defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints was Kiffin's last before moving to Tampa Bay.
Kiffin and his wife, Robin, have three children, including daughter Heidi and sons Lane and Chris; and three grandchildren, Preston, Landry and Presley. Chris currently serves as a graduate assistant at the University of Mississippi.