Bucs Ink Kiffin To New Three-Year Deal

January 30 – Monte Kiffin was the architect behind the league's top-rated defense in 2002, but Tampa Bay's front office made a defensive stand of its own Thursday when they kept Kiffin from interviewing with San Francisco by signing him to a new three-year contract. Kiffin's new deal makes him the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL and it should keep him in Tampa through the 2005 season.

Tampa Bay's front office intercepted San Francisco's scheduled interview with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin by signing him to a new three-year contract on Thursday.

Kiffin's agent, Jimmy Sexton, finalized the deal with the Bucs just hours before Kiffin was to have boarded a plane bound for California to interview for the 49ers head coaching job.

"We are committed to winning another championship, and Monte has been a huge part of our success," said Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer. "Our defense has ranked among the best in the NFL for several years under his direction and we look forward to continuing that tradition."

In October, Kiffin signed a two-year contract extension that made him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the NFL. The contract extension, which gave Kiffin a salary of about $1 million per season, was supposed help the Bucs keep Kiffin in Tampa through the 2004 season. But Tampa Bay feared it would lose Kiffin if he were indeed offered a head coaching job by San Francisco, so the Bucs essentially handed the defensive guru an offer he couldn't refuse.

Kiffin's new contract, which takes the place of the two-year contract he signed four months ago, is a three-year, $5.1-million deal, which easily makes him the highest paid assistant coach in the league. The deal includes a $1.1 million signing bonus and base salaries of $1.2 million (2003), $1.3 million (2004) and $1.5 million (2005). Kiffin's new deal averages out to $1.7 million annually.

"I am really happy here with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said Kiffin. "The Glazer family has always been very respectful to me.

"The reason I had the opportunity to even be considered for a head coaching position is because of Jon Gruden and the four defensive assistants, along with 25 defensive players that are totally committed to being the best. The reason I had this opportunity is because of our defensive staff. It is the best staff in the league."

The mastermind behind the league's top-rated defense, Kiffin's unit produced five Pro Bowl players in 2002, including NFL Defensive MVP Derrick Brooks, and it clearly played a huge role in the team's ability to win a Super Bowl championship. Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked defense also recorded a league-high 31 interceptions, 44 sacks and they allowed just 252 yards of total offense per game during the regular season.

Needless to say, Kiffin's players were pleased to learn that he was staying in Tampa.

"It is great news to hear that Coach Kiffin is staying," said Brooks. "It is important for us to keep the coaching staff together and have that continuity."

Added Bucs Pro Bowl safety Lynch, "I am thrilled. He is the number one coordinator in the league and has proven it. Players continue to get better playing under him. I am excited that he is staying in Tampa."

Tampa Bay surrendered a league-low 196 points during the regular season, which averaged out to just 12.3 points per game. That total was the fifth-fewest in a single season in NFL history during a 16-game schedule.

"Defensively, this was our best year and we capped it off with our success against the Raiders in the Super Bowl," Kiffin said. "We feel like we can continue to get better next year and hope to bring another championship back to the city of Tampa."

Kiffin joined the Bucs in 1996 as defensive coordinator under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy. His defenses have ranked in the top 10 for six straight seasons while surrendering just 1,538 points over that span, the fewest total in the league.

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