"Mike Tomlin is interviewing today with the Miami Dolphins for the defensive coordinator position," Gruden said. "We think a lot of him and certainly we'd like to have him back. I hate the thought of losing Mike. He's a very good friend and coach. He's been trained by the best. We wish him well in this interview."
While quarterbacks coach John Shoop is the only offensive assistant without a contract in 2005, Tomlin is the only defensive coach on the Bucs staff who isn't under contract. As Pewter Report first reported in November, Tomlin's contract expired at the end of the 2004 season and has opted to explore all of his options rather than re-sign with the team at this time.
Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Jon Gruden firmly believe that coaches should honor their commitments to the team and refused Tomlin, linebackers coach Joe Barry and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the opportunity to interview for various defensive coordinator positions around the league last year. Earlier this month, Bucs special teams coach Rich Bisaccia was denied the opportunity to join Charlie Weis' staff at Notre Dame because he is under contract for the 2005 season.
Tomlin knows that if he were to sign a multi-year contract extension with the Bucs that he would be prohibited from interviewing for a defensive coordinator position until his contract would expire. The only exception Allen and Gruden make in terms of letting assistants out of their contracts is for head coaching opportunities.
If Tomlin leaves the Buccaneers, Raheem Morris, who is Tampa Bay's assistant defensive backs coach, is expected to replace him. Gruden said that the team is not interviewing any candidates for the defensive backs coaching position and that they will wait for Tomlin to fully explore his opportunities.
"That's the luxury sometimes of having the opportunity to look around," Gruden said. "We're going to stay with Mike and obviously wish for the best. At the same time, we can only update you when we see Mike when he returns from Miami and his interview."
Gruden had some flowery praise for Tomlin when quoted for a recent Pewter Report cover story about the young defensive backs coach.
"I can't speak for everybody, but I do believe he's got a tremendous amount of respect," Gruden said. "He's a knowledgeable guy, and a real high-energy guy. He's a great communicator. He's consistent in that he's always up. He's a very optimistic, upbeat guy, but he's very demanding and detail-oriented guy, too. He's a superstar coach. He's going to be one of the best. He's got a great future and we're very proud to have him on our staff. His talent is unlimited and we're very fortunate to have him here."
While Tomlin did not want to discuss the specifics in that Pewter Report story because the 2004 season was still underway, he admitted that he did want to become a defensive coordinator in the very near future.
"I think time will tell," Tomlin said. "We all have dreams and aspirations, and mine are those."
Check back with PewterReport.com later tonight for a possible update on Tomlin's job interview in Miami.
Tomlin joined the Buccaneers in 2001, replacing Herman Edwards. He has been instrumental in helping cornerback Ronde Barber develop into a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro (2001 and 2004) and produce the league's number one pass defense on two occasions (2002 and 2004).
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