With four games remaining in the 2008 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost one of the last remaining pieces of it’s glory days. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin upped and quit on the team in the middle of the season to take a job on his son’s staff at the University of Tennessee.
That was the last the Buccaneers saw of Kiffin and any sort of a defense for the next four years.
But while he’s spent some time in the college ranks on his son’s staff at Tennessee and then USC, Monte Kiffin is making a triumphant return to the NFL, as he has accepted the job of defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Kiffin replaces the recently fired Rob Ryan as the guy Jerry Jones believes will take his team to the next level.
Kiffin’s return to the NFL will polarize Bucs fans, just as his exit enraged just about everyone. While some have let the years heal the wounds Kiffin created when he abruptly divorced himself from the team he helped create, other are just as bitter today as they were back in 2008.
It’s said that Jon Gruden heard about Kiffin wanting to leave for Tennesse, and refused the coordinator the opportunity to do so in the middle of the season. This caused dicourse within the Bucs coaching staff, as it was widely reported that Kiffin had ‘checked out’ and ‘quit’ on the team as if he was a 24 year old player in a contract season on a bad team.
But Kiffin wasn’t a 24 year old player on a bad team, he was a 67 year old coach on a 9-3 football team. Due to the turmoil, Kiffin’s normally excellent defense was a shell of it’s former self and the Buccaneers became the first team ever to miss the playoffs after starting out the season 9-3.
The tumble from the top cost Jon Gruden his job and ushered in the Raheem Morris era in Bucs football. So it’s easy to understand the animosity Bucs fans amy still feel towards a guy they all had a lot of respect and love for prior.
Nevertheless, Kiffin is back and operating less than 20 hours away from Tampa. Cowboys fans are already salivating over what Kiffin might be able to do with guys like Demarcus Ware, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. But for Bucs fans, while Kiffin helped bring a Super Bowl to Tampa, he’ll always be as equally remembered for how he violently parted ways with the franchise and it’s fans.