PHOENIX – Before Mike Tomlin ever got a chance as a defensive coordinator or head coach, he was a defensive backs coach on the same staff as Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli in Tampa Bay.
Tomlin said he learned a tremendous amount personally and professionally from the defensive gurus prior to coaching revered defenses as a defensive coordinator for Minnesota and a head coach for Pittsburgh.
“They leave no stone unturned, in terms of preparation,” Tomlin said at the AFC Coaches Breakfast during the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix. “The things that we talked about on a daily basis were food for growth from a young coach’s standpoint. I loved those guys.”
In Tomlin’s first two years with the team, Tampa Bay finished as the league’s No. 6 defense in 2001 and the No. 1 defense in 2002. Tomlin was only in his late 20s and early 30s while serving on the staff from 2001-05, during which time he helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl, alongside Kiffin and Marinelli.
“They’re great guys, first and foremost,” Tomlin said. “They’re great at what they do. It’s a great learning environment for a young coach.”
Tomlin’s not the only current head coach who saw firsthand what Marinelli and Kiffin accomplished in Tampa Bay. Chargers coach Mike McCoy served in various roles on the offensive coaching staff for the Panthers from 2000-08.
During the Bucs’ Super Bowl run in 2002, the Panthers scored a combined 19 points in their two games against the Bucs, both losses for Carolina. The Panthers got revenge with two wins against the Bucs a season later, but the Bucs still held the Panthers to 12 points in the first matchup in 2003.
McCoy described the defenses of Kiffin and Marinelli as detailed and disciplined, but not too complicated.
“They’re very good at what they do,” McCoy said. “They never did a ton. There’s a couple things they did. There’s variations of it, don’t get me wrong. But their players knew the system and they executed better than other players.”