New Buccaneers defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan made his debut before the Bucs beat writers at his introductory press conference. Here are five things
that Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds took away from Sheridan’s initial meeting with the media in Tampa Bay.
1. Sheridan owned up to his mistakes in New York
Under Sheridan’s watch as defensive coordinator, the Giants defense collapsed down the stretch of the 2009 season and missed the playoffs after a strong 5-0 start. The defense surrendered 40 points or more a franchise-record five times and Sheridan was fired after the 2009 season.
To his credit, Sheridan came out and took responsibility and accountability for his mistakes in his opening remarks during Tuesday’s press conference. Sheridan didn’t wait for the questions from the media and then dodge them, he anticipated the questions and provided thoughtful, unprompted answers from the start.
“When I left New York and I talked to John Mara and Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin I explained to them, as I did Greg [Schiano] when I took the interview here – I take, and took full responsibility for the fact we didn’t take good enough defense at the end of the year when I was coordinating that year,” Sheridan said. “That was the first thing. Because I was put in charge of that and the bottom line was at the end of the year we didn’t keep the people out of the end zone good enough to be successful.
“The second thing that happened was when we sustained those injuries in the early to middle part of the year, in an attempt to help the new players that we were bringing in and working with – and some of those players were free agents off the street and they were bringing them in and they had to play in our lineup at the the year – I think we tried to be very simple for them to give them a chance to actually execute. In hindsight, again I think we might have been guilty about being too simple because it’s great for your own players because you present them a simplistic scheme that they can execute on Sundays, but you aren’t posing enough issues for the teams you’re playing against. You aren’t giving them enough problems. In hindsight, those are two things that are probably shoulda, woulda, coulda or definitely will look at going forward.”
Sheridan took full responsibility for not getting the job done and admits to second-guessing himself by putting in too simplistic of a scheme on defense. He’s questioning his own ability as a play-caller, which is refreshing in this day and age of passing the buck and blaming others rather than looking in the mirror. Sheridan then admitted to one of the most egregious offenses in the NFL.
“I think in hindsight looking back one of the things we probably did was we assumed as a defensive staff,” Sheridan said. “We assumed because we made the playoffs for four previous years that things would get turned around and that things would get better.”
Assuming anything in the NFL will get you fired and get you beat – hence the term “any given Sunday.” Sheridan readily admits his past mistakes from his last go-round as a defensive coordinator. Hopefully he has learned from them.2. Being aggressive on defense
Sheridan should get high marks from fans for phrases like “out-physicaling our opponent and actually attempting to physically dominate our opponent” and “being aggressive and attacking and bringing everything across the line of scrimmage towards the opponent.” Yet no coordinator is going to get up behind a microphone and say that he wants a finesse defense that will elude and evade rather than seek and destroy.
Sheridan said all the right things in terms of the style of defense he wants. He said that he believes the Bucs can be coached to play a physical brand of football because of the potential on the roster, and that the players thrive in more of an aggressive style of play.
“One is that everything we do defensively, even in a non-pressure scheme, will be all aggressive across the line of scrimmage techniques, especially in our front,” Sheridan said. “We always say, ‘We don’t let the offense climb up on us.’ You definitely have to pressure in this league. You can’t just rush four and say, ‘We’re good enough on the back end or we’re good enough with our front four.’ If you can do that, that’s great, and there’s a place for that in every single game. But you need to pressure. One, is it turns your player loose and gets them a chance to run at the ball, run across the line of scrimmage. The other thing is obviously it poses problems for the other side of the ball, the offense, which you definitely want to create for them.”
While the scheme Sheridan and Schiano will be running will be pressure-based, it won’t be overly or unnecessarily aggressive to the point where it is detrimental to the defense.
“I think [pressure] an overused term, people love to talk about pressure and blitzing and how much and all that stuff, and you have to do it in a calculated form because the offenses get prepared for that, too,” Sheridan said. “And if they know what’s coming and when it’s coming and how it’s coming, they’ll have an answer for it. There’s always and X’s and O’s answer for everything on both sides of the ball. So you definitely have a strategy and a percentage in mind of pressure. It needs to be calculated and it needs to be changed up and not always consistent so that they don’t get a beat on what you’re doing."
Knowing how and when to bring pressure is a carefully crafted art. The Bucs hope that Sheridan is the artist that can paint a distinctly different picture on defense in 2012.3. Sheridan believes in free agency
In what must be music to Buccaneers fans’ ears, Sheridan expressed his strong belief in free agency in more than one occasion during his press conference on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has been notorious for sitting out free agency over the past few years and not spending money on veterans that could help the team and bring sorely needed leadership to the locker room.
While Sheridan said he was excited to coach a young team and thought the Bucs’ young defensive front was intriguing, he also professed his love for veteran players that can step right in and start and help the defense.
“I think free agency was critical every offseason,” Sheridan said. “Obviously, Greg, Mark [Dominik] and our staff will do a great job of analyzing what is out there and what is the best fit for us. I think your point is very well made in the fact that a veteran NFL player – even if it is a third- or fourth-year guy – at least has been around NFL defenses and can digest something maybe even coming in on a Tuesday and can line up as a backup on a Sunday the following week. As opposed to sometimes … because the college defenses are a little bit different, especially with the hash marks and how they are put together, I think there is a big learning curve for the rookies when they come in.
“If you are able to get a guy that has been around some other NFL teams a lot of time the terminology is similar and the schemes are similar to where they can line up for you in a short period of time. Free agency is critical.”
The Bucs could certainly use a good veteran cornerback, linebacker and safety to help provide leadership and foster better play through competition. Free agency is the way to get those types of players and it sounds like Sheridan will be pushing hard for a couple of players that could provide an instant impact in his defense.4. “This is Greg Schiano’s defense”
Long-time Buccaneers fans remember Monte Kiffin taking the reins of Tony Dungy’s defense in 1996 and designing and defining the “Tampa 2” scheme. The hope is that Sheridan can accomplish a similar feat for Schiano’s 4-3 pressure defense, which will be a one-gap scheme with one defensive lineman playing a two-gap assignment.
“Along with having Butch Davis on our side of the ball, and I don’t know how Butch is titling him as a defensive consultant; I view that as a huge plus,” Sheridan said.
“I think our defense is going to be Greg Schiano’s defense because he’s our head coach and I’m coordinating it for him. Obviously he hired me because he feels I have a lot of experience and knowledge and competence and I’m excited about jumping into it and trying to mesh our ideas together, but it’s Greg’s defense for sure. He’s an outstanding defensive coach and was long before he was ever a head coach at Rutgers. And so that was all discussed on the up and up when we interviewed so I know exactly what I’m getting into. But like I said, I view it as a huge plus.”
What was refreshing to hear was Sheridan embracing the idea that this defense will be Schiano’s – not his. Sheridan lacks the ego of a coach like Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan or Gregg Williams, and that will go a long way to forge unity and cooperation on the coaching staff and tranquility in the defensive meetings with the players.
Sheridan only has one year’s worth of playcalling experience in his coaching career, which spans 32 years5. Sheridan knows Tampa Bay’s upcoming opponents
The 53-year old Sheridan spent five years in New York with the Giants as a linebackers coach (2005-08) and as a defensive coordinator (2009), so he knows that team quite well. Like new Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who also coached in New York, Sheridan has a firm grasp on the NFC East teams’ personnel due to stint with the Giants. That will come in handy when the Bucs face the NFC East in 2012.
What’s even more helpful is the fact that Sheridan spent the last two seasons in Miami as the linebackers coach for the Dolphins. Miami happened to play both the NFC East and the AFC West in 2011 and those are two divisions that Tampa Bay will play in the upcoming year. Sheridan should be intimately familiar with the personnel for eight of Tampa Bay’s 13 opponents from having studied film and played the likes of the Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders a year ago.
Of those teams, only one – Oakland – has gone through an offseason coaching change. Kansas City promoted defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel from within to become its head coach. So what those teams ran offensively in 2011 against Sheridan and the Dolphins should be somewhat similar to what Tampa Bay will face in 2012.
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