New Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan discussed his background with the New York Giants and his plans for Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay offense in 2012 during his introductory press conference.
Sullivan's opening statement
“I’d like to thank the Glazer family, Mark Dominik, Coach [Greg] Schiano (for this) incredible opportunity. I am so excited and so blessed and I also need to thank the New York Giants. I need to thank the organization, the ownership. The Mara family, the Tisch family, the front office, Jerry Reese, Coach [Tom] Coughlin, and all the players and coaches. Eight years of wonderful memories there. I’m extremely grateful and will always remember the fact that Coach Coughlin was the one who gave me the opportunity at Jacksonville. He gave me a chance to come up to New York and coach the receivers, and gave the chance to coach the quarterbacks. Ands I will forever be in debt to he and Jerry Reese for allowing me to pursue this incredible opportunity.
“Last Thursday when I met Coach Schiano, I was immediately taken by the man – by his passion, by his conviction, by the sense of commitment that I knew he had to the Buccaneer Way. The following day as I met with some of the outstanding men he assembled as part of the staff, I had a chance to visit with Mark Dominik and see the vision, see the goals, see the aspirations of this great organization. I immediately knew this was not only what I wanted to do but what I had to do. This was a great opportunity and a great challenge and so I am very grateful, very blessed and extremely excited to be here.”What was Coach Coughlin’s reaction to the Bucs wanting to interview him?
“Coach Coughlin was initially hesitant, which made me feel very appreciative. Words can’t describe the amount of respect I have for him as a person, as a leader, and as a coach. He was – as you would expect – wanting to ensure that things that had gone smoothly and the success we had, and certainly the relationship with the quarterback [I had] that it continued to go well. I think it is a testament to his character, and his loyalty that ultimately he decided to support me and allow this to happen. As he has often said to the team, when one gets to the top of the mountain you realize there is always one more mountain to climb. And so, as I said earlier, I have and will always be appreciative of his support. Those were difficult conversations. There is a great amount of loyalty that I have and always will have. But at this point he is the opponent and he is trying to get his team ready to go, and I am a Buccaneer and proud and fired up to be here.”
What impressed you about Coach Schiano?
“I hadn’t had a previous relationship with Coach Schiano. I had known of him and his reputation had been one of that instilled great discipline and was very organized and detailed, and the sense of family and family values. Those types of thing come about when you are having dinner with some one and you get to know them and look them in the eye and you get a sense of what they are about, and what are the things that are truly important to them. And to see how he described his wife and children, and to be quite honest, the difficulties he felt he had in leaving so many special people at Rutgers. And I felt very similar emotions as you will so, I think when looking at what he was able to accomplish and how his focus and approach is going to be, the type of commitment he wants to make as he has described the Buccaneer Way, was something that I was very attracted to and instantly drawn to.”
Why was it about this particular job that was appealing to you?
“I think everyone knows that is here it is a quarterback driven league. No matter how you slice it – and ultimately defense wins championships, and there is no doubt about it – but you have got to have a quarterback. And I think a lot of things you look at with a guy like Josh Freeman – the skill set he possesses, the youth, the ability, the size, the strength – there is an awful lot there and I am chomping at the bit to work with. And you take into consideration that, and the big picture of in terms of a veteran offensive line and some hard-running backs … I would misleading if I said I had a thorough scouting report and have everybody evaluated with a pro grade on them, and I’m ready to smartly report to Mark Dominik on that. But I will be honest with you, it was the attraction to work with a special talent like Josh Freeman.”What are the goals you want to instill in the offense?
“When it is all said and done, it would be very gratifying, and I think it would mean we are winning games and doing things to help the Buccaneers work towards climbing to the top of the mountain, and if this offense could be described in literally five words – tough, physical, disciplined, smart and explosive. And everything we are going to do as a staff, all of the work that is going on right now as we speak trying to learn the language and draw upon all the great experience of a guy like Jimmy Raye, who has been in so many battles and has so much experience he brings to the table. And the other coaches who have been assembled. As we prepare those plans, as we move forward, all roads have to lead to those five words in terms of how we want to be known throughout the league, and present a product that the fans are going to be fired up about and they are going want to support. And our opponents, upon the conclusion of the game, will hopefully be able to describe us in that manner.”How has your experience in working with receivers and working with Eli Manning prepared you to call plays?
“Spending eight years with two of the best offensive minds in the game in Coach Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride – and the amount of time and the thoroughness of the preparation, and having the opportunities to not just be someone who sat behind a desk and take notes, but through a time through 2005 and 2006 and on to these past two Super Bowls, being fortunate to have a say, to provide input, to be a part of the game plan process … and that again is a credit and another chance to thank Coach Coughlin once more and Kevin Gilbride for allowing me to grow and have the opportunity to play an integral role in that aspect. The amount of time that goes through a season and we were fortunate enough to have some years where we got to play some extra games – high-pressure, all-or-nothing type games – and all the work that goes throughout the offseason, one can’t help but assimilate all that knowledge and pick the things that are like ‘Oh, I really like that, and that will work.’ [Or say] ‘If maybe if I had a chance I’d do it a little bit differently.’ Ultimately, it comes to a situation where you have your chance and you rely upon your instincts and your training, and some of the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in my life from the military perspective and so forth and go out and hit it head on. It’s about the preparation and the detail and the work that goes in during the week and the offseason. The game takes care of itself.”Did you get any assurances from Coach Schiano or Mark Dominik or the Glazers about bringing in the right offensive talent before he took the job?
“Coach Schiano’s vision of what he wanted from this offense in terms of being one that would have a commitment to a running game, and have the ability to have big plays, explosive plays, game-changing type plays – there was a lot of similarities to begin with. I felt very comfortable with Mark Dominik’s view of where he wanted the offense to go. They were asking me based upon some of my experiences what some of the key reasons were or weren’t why there had been success for the Giants in the past. I think it was a mutual understanding. We reached a common ground, if you will, on the course we wanted to take. It’s something that I am very excited about.”What were some of the traits that Eli Manning developed that you would like to see Josh Freeman develop?
“The biggest thing when I think about Eli Manning – and for starters, it’s not fair to Josh or Eli to compare and contrast different players at different stages of their careers – I think the one thing though that you would like to see all of your players, especially the quarterback, possess is that work ethic, that commitment, that diligence, almost an obsession with preparation. That’s my job – to encourage and also at this stage of maybe Josh’s career – to provide the guidance about how to prepare. It’s not about sitting a guy up in a room and [saying], ‘Hey, here’s a tape’, study some tape and leave. There is a systematic approach. There is a road map that needs to be laid out, and the ability – within the framework of the system – to identify what the defense does, identify what we are trying to do offensively and take things continually to that next step, and always be in that position where there may be temporary satisfaction, but we are always striving to improve, always trying to be greater and always trying to push the bar, and leaving no detail to be considered to be too small. To have that type of approach would be one that I really look forward to visiting with Josh and beginning that journey with him from a preparation standpoint. And then allowing his tremendous ability and what we see that he can do to fit within the system to come to the forefront.”What can people expect? Do you expect your offense to look like the Giants?
“We are in the process of exchanging ideas with coach Raye and well as coach Fleck and Angelico from their vantage points. We are in dialogue and we are exchanging ideas. And I will say this in advance – and I will apologize in advance if I am vague it is deliberately as you would expect. I would just assume have all those tremendous coordinators and opponents they can find things out in September. We are just going to be general and broad and I apologize and just would hope the great Buccaneer fans would hang in there with us and know we are grinding away and are obsessed with preparation and details and we are not going to be outworked or prepared with a plan that will out an offense on the field that will doe everything to help us win.”Besides Freeman, are there any other players that you have seen or followed that you are excited to work with?
“You know things happened so fast … I really didn’t have an opportunity as things finished up with a special magical ride in Indianapolis to take an assessment. I knew there some strengths and a heck of a right guard. But a lot of recognition of Josh came over the course of a year or last couple years where we are breaking down an opponent that defense happened to be playing the Buccaneers and see this very athletic, strong competitor out there, and so he catches your eye. But in terms of having had a time – that is one of the first things I said when I got here – in visiting with Mark and Greg, not that its an excuse or reason, but there hasn’t been a lot of time to have a thorough detailed analysis.”Did winning the Super Bowl have any bearing wanted to take this job?
“That is a great question. That experience is one that is so very special. In the fact that when that confetti comes down and you see that platform being moved out to the center of the field. There is an opportunity to have direct family members – and I had my wife and my mom right there with me – you have so many emotions that go into that. And the best part is not for you. That is great it is exciting but to share it with them it was such an overwhelming experience. I can’t say that I had a conscience decision that there is nothing else I can do, I have done about as much as I can. I did know that when the opportunity presented itself I thought about some of the words Coach Coughlin shared with the team. And from my standpoint while that was an amazing journey and eight incredible years and two Super Bowl championships and the Lombardi trophies will be with me and cherished forever. But if there was an opportunity to grow and challenge and push forward and climb to the top of the next mountain. I was excited about it. And certainly after meeting with Mark Dominik and Coach Schiano, and seeing so many wonderful people I the organization, it was something I wanted to do.”What will the toughest part of the transition?
“There is an awful of work that needs to take place. And what the heck does that mean? First of all, there is the challenge of assembling the staff and getting everybody together. There are concepts that well all understand. But it is learning the same language. It is juggling the evaluations that need to take place as far as being ready for the draft and free agency – and oh by the way – let's put it together because there is going to be some OTAs and rookie mini-camps and mandatory mini-camps, and anytime the enormity of the situation is what the prospective is then that can be overwhelming. It is one step at a time and a systematic approach – I know there is going to be challenges ahead – but I just feel so fortunate to be under the leadership and guidance of Coach Schiano where there is going to be support and clear guidance and direction and a commitment. I am sure there are going to be a few landmines along the way but we will fight them and we will be in good shape.”What does winning the Super Bowl bring to coaching the Buccaneers?
“Well I think if there is one principal that coaches talk about – if you do this or do that you get that – having been so fortunate and blessed to have seen it first hand on a team that can put aside egos and the individual and truly believe amidst all adversity and come together and let their commonalities become more important than their… differences. And when you have discipline, and a structure, and a way of doing things, the right way and everyone is accountable – coaches and players – I have seen that work. I’m not saying that is the only way; there are other ways to do it. There have been 44 other that have won a Lombardi trophy but the two I was part of had those ingredients.”How did you help Manning eliminate turnovers from 2010 to this season?
“We had a very long meeting at the end of the season. He was frustrated. I was frustrated, but rightfully so because turnovers lose football games. And the most important thing is to protect the football. And he was frustrated with it, and I was frustrated with it. I think we sat down; it was really a chance to get some things off his chest, things he would like to be different. Some of the things in what I can do to be better and help serve and be better. Sometimes taking a sack is a good thing and throwing it away [is a good thing]. And he was aware of it. But I think it was an emphasizing of it in the coming year, as a quarterback, it was really going to be a focus on three things – accuracy, leadership and the decision-making. And if we were able to grade out plus in those three areas then we were going to have a great opportunity. I remember telling him right before the season, 'You know what Eli? You are going to throw an interception, maybe two or three. But let's make sure that it has got to be a great play by the defense – just one of those that puts that (defensive) guy in Hawaii. And make it be earned. And a credit to his commitment and work ethic and prepare as a true professional were fortunate to have great results.”
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