With Todd Bowles succeeding Bruce Arians as the Bucs’ head coach, Tampa Bay will promote from within at defensive coordinator. Inside linebackers coach Larry Foote and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers are expected to be named co-defensive coordinators, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
With Todd Bowles as the new #Bucs head coach, the likely scenario is that ILBs coach Larry Foote and DL coach Kacy Rodgers will split defensive coordinator duties. https://t.co/ljad9mrmM4
Rodgers served as Bowles’ defensive coordinator in New York when he was the Jets from 2015-18. After Bowles was fired after four years in New York, he rejoined Bruce Arians’ staff in 2019 – this time in Tampa Bay. Bowles hired Rodgers to be the Bucs’ defensive line coach and he has served in that capacity for the past three seasons. In 2020, Rodgers helped the Bucs win Super Bowl LV and was named the league’s Defensive Line Coach of the Year.
Rodgers has worked with Bowles for 14 seasons. That working relationship began in Dallas on the Cowboys staff from 2005-07. Rodgers was the defensive line coach and Bowles was the secondary coach. The two were on the same staff again in Miami from 2008. Bowles was the assistant head coach and secondary coach, while Rodgers continued to coach the D-line.
Bucs co-DC Kacy Rodgers – Photo by: USA Today
Foote switched from outside linebackers coach to inside linebackers coach this offseason, replacing Mike Caldwell. He left to become the Jaguars defensive coordinator under Doug Pederson. This is the first opportunity for both Caldwell and Foote to become a defensive coordinator.
“I think his next step is being a coordinator,” Arians said about Foote. “Having worked with the inside ‘backers in Arizona and the outside ‘backers here, he has just continued to grow. I thought both of his guys should have been in the Pro Bowl – Shaq [Barrett] and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul). Larry is a heck of a football [coach] – great communicator, a very, very bright young man. He will be a coordinator and hopefully someday a head coach.”
Foote’s Opportunity Has Arrived
The 40-year old Foote was a linebacker at Michigan with Bucs quarterback Tom Brady before being selected as a fourth round pick of the 2002 draft by Pittsburgh. Foote had an 11-year career with the Steelers where he got to know Arians, who was Pittsburgh’s receivers coach (2004-06) and then the team’s offensive coordinator starting in 2007. The fiery Foote and Arians used to get into it in practice back in Pittsburgh.
“Oh yeah, he has an edge about him,” Arians said. “Nobody used to talk more [expletive] than me. And it was usually him on defense in Pittsburgh giving it [right back to me].”
Foote made such an impression on Arians that he recruited him to Arizona to play linebacker in 2014, which was his final year as an NFL player. When Foote decided to retire in 2015, Arians immediately offered him an assistant coaching position, and the former linebacker coached the same position group for the Cardinals through the 2018 season.
“He was an extremely smart player,” Arians said. “Larry could really diagnose things well. He played balls to the wall – he was all out all the time. He was a little bit undersized, but you never knew it the way he hit. Larry had great, great confidence about himself. He’s the first guy I ever hired from being a player straight to a full-time coach. Usually I make them sit out a year or intern or be an assistant to a coach. He ended up coaching the guys he played with the previous year. It was an easy transition for him.”
Foote Made His Mark Early In Tampa Bay
Foote loved the idea of reuniting with Arians in Tampa Bay in 2019 and joined the staff as the team’s outside linebackers coach, where he helped Shaquil Barrett lead the league with 19.5 sacks, which set a franchise record.
Bucs co-DC Larry Foote – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s awesome – me and B.A. hit it off way back in the Pittsburgh days when he was just a wide receivers coach,” Foote said. “He was always a fiery guy and we always clicked off the field. When he became a head coach, my last year I came out there and played for him in Arizona. That’s where I got to meet Todd Bowles and we won a lot of games. B.A. always knew I was an ‘above the neck’ type of guy when I was playing. As a player, I thought I was the best athlete out there, but Coach told me I stayed in this league long because I could think out there on the field.
“When Bowles left, Mike Caldwell went with him and B.A. said, ‘No, you’re coaching my linebackers. I’m not letting you retire and go home.’ I just slid right in there. Some of my former teammates I played with – Hines Ward, even Joey Porter – that’s not the norm. Former players just sliding in and getting your own room – that’s not the norm. It just happened to happen that way for me, and I thank God for it. My next step, I would love to be a coordinator in this league and to bring all my experience to the game. I’ve been around a lot of great coaches, so I’m just going to emulate what they taught me.”
Foote also coached Jason Pierre-Paul to a Pro Bowl in 2020, helping the Bucs win Super Bowl LV that season.
Arians Saw Foote’s Potential
Arians thought so much of Foote that when he hired Jen Welter to be the first female assistant coach in NFL history, he paired her with him in the linebackers room.
“He was also the guy that when I hired the first female, I put her with him – with the inside linebackers – because I knew he could handle it,” Arians said. “He did a great, great job with Jen Welter. Foote was coaching inside ‘backers, and of course he played inside ‘backer, and we moved him to outside ‘backers here. He’s a coordinator-in-waiting.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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