In a move that PewterReport.com called for before the bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith and replaced him with linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
“I would replace Smith with linebackers coach Mark Duffner because I would want Alexander and David to be featured more on defense and in the pass rush,” I wrote in the Oct. 5 SR’s Fab 5. “As Duffner is the linebackers coach, I’m trusting that would happen. It’s been a long time since Duffner has been a defensive coordinator in the league, but at this point, it might be worth the risk of giving him a shot at calling the plays. At least since he’s on the current staff he would have a sense of what not to do.”
Duffner inherits the reins of a Bucs defense that currently ranks 31st in total defense, allowing an average of 439.8 yards per game, and the team ranks dead last in points allowed with 34.6 per game. Tampa Bay also ranks dead last in passing defense, surrendering 355.6 yards per game.
Under Smith’s direction, the Bucs had surrendered 400 yards in 20 of the 37 games in which he was the play-caller.
Duffner has been coaching for 22 NFL seasons, including the last three in Tampa Bay. In each of his first two years with the Bucs, a Tampa Bay linebacker has been named to the Pro Bowl – weakside linebacker Lavonte David in 2016 and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2017.
After David recorded five sacks and Alexander notched three sacks in 2016 when the Bucs had the league’s top third down defense, neither David nor Alexander recorded a sack last year as the Bucs ranked last in the NFL in sacks with 22. This year, Alexander has one sack through five games while David has none.
Duffner has previously coached with the Miami Dolphins (2014-15), the Jacksonville Jaguars (2006-13), the Green Bay Packers (2003-05), and the Cincinnati Bengals (1997-2002), where he was the defensive coordinator in his final two seasons. In 2001, his first year as defensive coordinator, the Bengals defense allowed the unit’s fewest single points (309) since 1989 and the fewest yards per game (302) since 1983.
The Bengals also set a franchise single-season record for sacks that year with 48, which was a mark that stood for 11 years. Duffner has 22 years worth of experience at the college level, including 11 seasons as a head coach at Maryland (1992-96) and Holy Cross (1986-91) where he was a two-time National Coach of the Year.