Leo's Late Hits

January 20 - Welcome to the first edition of my weekly commentary for the Internet version of Buccaneer Magazine. With each column, I will explore a few questions that may have been just glanced over or ignored in the past to give you some added insight into the inner workings of professional football. Plus you get my opinions, and as you know, I shoot straight from the hip.

Here's this week's Late Hits:

1. Does defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin have a possibility of becoming the next head coach of the Buccaneers by default? I believe there's no chance of that scenario coming to fruition.

Kiffin is the consummate defensive coordinator and there's been numerous times where the Lexington, Nebraska native would just work through the night and meet the first group of players arriving at One Buccaneer Place at sunrise the next morning. His energy and work ethic would be great for a head coach, but it would be hard for Tampa Bay to find someone to replace him.

After losing defensive backs coach Herman Edwards to become head coach of the New York Jets and linebackers coach Lovey Smith to the St. Louis Rams as defensive coordinator after the 2000 campaign, the Bucs defense would have a tough time absorbing another major hit to it's defensive coaching staff.

2. How did I know the Bucs offense was in trouble coming out of training camp? When the Tampa Bay coaching staff determined that Joe Hamilton had CLEARLY beaten out Ryan Leaf for the third quarterback spot.

What were they looking at? Forget the fact that Leaf was almost a foot taller than Hamilton, but to think that a professional football coach, when given the option of choosing Leaf or Hamilton to put in the game, would opt for Hamilton under center is scary. It gave me an inkling that these guys had a problem evaluating talent or there were other issues. Hopefully it was the later.

3. Who will be the next Bucs coach to move up the coaching ranks in the National Football League? My pick is defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and here are the three situations that could lead to his elevation within the professional coaching community.

First, Tony Dungy could land a head coaching job at Indianapolis or Carolina and if Kiffin has already committed himself to staying in Tampa Bay with the new head coach, Marinelli could follow Dungy.

Next would be the possibility of Kiffin moving to another team. Marinelli could be asked to take the reigns of the defensive coordinator to keep continuity in the Bucs defense.

Finally, if another club hires Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, don't be surprised if Edwards tabs Marinelli as the next defensive coordinator in the Big Apple.

4. If Bill Parcells doesn't come to the Bucs who will be the next coach? That, Buccaneer fans, is the $64-million question. From my sources within the organization this Parcells reversal caught the entire Tampa Bay football team by surprise. They are in shock and there wasn't a Plan B in place.

My alternative strategy would be to find someone with NFL head coaching experience and has been to a Super Bowl. That's going to limit the list considerably and my choice would be former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy for two reasons - he runs a tight ship and he was able to get an "old" Bills team to four straight Super Bowls.

Anybody who can get 53 guys to perform at a championship level in upstate New York in January with the environmental conditions unfit for man or beast gets my vote.

Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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