San Francisco Courts Kiffin

January 28 – Tampa Bay finally won its first Super Bowl last Sunday, but the championship might cost the Bucs its defensive coordinator. The San Francisco 49ers have received permission from Tampa Bay to interview Monte Kiffin for its vacant head coaching position. Kiffin's defense, which finished the 2002 season ranked No. 1 overall, has finished in the top 10 six consecutive seasons.

Tampa Bay's first Super Bowl championship might cost the Buccaneers the brain behind its top-rated defense.

The San Francisco 49ers have received permission from Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay to interview defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin for a head coaching job.

San Francisco and Detroit are the only two teams in the NFL with head coaching vacancies. The leading candidate for the head coaching job in Detroit is former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci, who was fired by San Francisco just two days after Tampa Bay defeated San Francisco in the second round of the playoffs, 31-6.

San Francisco has already interviewed New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cotrell, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress, New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and incumbent defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. But Kiffin, who coached the league's top-ranked defense, immediately emerged as a aspirant after Tampa Bay defeated Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII, 48-21.

In October, Kiffin signed a two-year contract extension that made him the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL. The contract extension, which gave Kiffin a salary of about $1 million annually, was also supposed help keep Kiffin in Tampa through the 2004 season. But a promotion such as a head coaching job would allow Kiffin out of his contract.

The Bucs will do everything they can to convince Kiffin to stay onboard the Bucs' ship in order to make another run at the Super Bowl next season. The team may even give Kiffin yet another contract extension.

"When you have a great coach like Monte, you always run the risk of losing him," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. "I'll tell you this – we're going to go back to the hotel and recruit him hard to stay with us. He's a big reason why we won a championship."

Kiffin, 62, joined the Bucs in 1996 as defensive coordinator under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy. His defense has finished in the league's top 10 in six straight seasons and in the top four in three of those.

Tampa Bay's defense played a big part in helping the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl this season. Kiffin's squad finished the regular season ranked No. 1 overall, No. 5 against the run and No. 1 against the pass.

Known for its one-gap, 4-3 cover 2 defensive scheme, Kiffin used a variety of other coverages, including cover 3, to keep most of Tampa Bay's opponents off balance this season.

The league's top-rated defense, which produce five Pro Bowl players in '02, also recorded a league-high 31 interceptions, 44 sacks and they allowed just 252 yards of total offense per game during the regular season.

Tampa Bay surrendered a league-low 196 points during the regular season, which averaged out to just 12.3 points per game. Tampa Bay's defense allowed a total of just 16 points in both of its playoff contests leading up to Super Bowl XXXVII.

Kiffin and Co. saved its best performance for last when they shut down the league's top-rated offense in Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay's defense sacked NFL MVP and Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon five times. Gannon, who threw just 10 interceptions in 16 regular season games, was picked off five times by Tampa Bay's defense and the Bucs returned three of those for touchdowns.

Tampa Bay's defense put a stranglehold on Oakland's No. 1 ranked offense and rarely let go in Super Bowl XXXVII. Its performance in last Sunday's game along with its outing throughout the 2002 season will allow this unit to go down as one of the best defenses to have ever played in the NFL.

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