On Tuesday, Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik met with the media for the first time since the Bucs' 2009 season came to an end.
The meeting took place at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this morning. Dominik answered a lot of questions regarding the Bucs, who are coming off a 3-13 season. The Q&A with Dominik can be accessed here
The majority of questions Dominik answered involved the team's coaching staff, where several changes have taken place and a few positions remain unfilled.
Dominik revealed that after some careful consideration, the Buccaneers have decided to allow linebackers coach Joe Barry out of his contract to leave for USC, where he will work in the same capacity at his alma mater.
The Bucs have filled the void left by Barry by moving defensive backs coach Joe Baker to linebackers coach, where he has worked before at the pro level. Filling Baker's spot in the secondary is Jimmy Lake, who worked under Bucs head coach Raheem Morris as an assistant DBs coach in 2007 before leaving in 2008 to become the Detroit Lions defensive backs coach.
"After talking with Joe Barry about what he wanted, we made a special circumstance to let him out of his contract to allow him to go to USC to be the linebackers coach at USC," said Dominik. "The reasoning why behind it is not only [former Bucs defensive coordinator] Monte Kiffin and his relationship there, but Joe Barry was a player at USC and he was a graduate assistant there, and he and his wife met there. In talking through that with Joe and Coach Morris we decided to let him pursue that opportunity. We felt it was right for Joe and we felt we'd be fine. Joe Baker has coached linebackers in the NFL and in college, so we're comfortable with him heading up that room."
"[Raheem and Jimmy] worked together, and Jimmy handled DBs [in Detroit] before. We're excited about having Jimmy back in Tampa to help us continue to move forward.
"The other thing that's nice about Joe Baker is he can help us continue to build the hybrid defense that we wanted. He's extremely intelligent and articulate. We're extremely confident in him working with Geno Hayes and Quincy Black, as well as Raheem."
Barry, who re-joined the Bucs in 2009 after spending two seasons in Detroit as the Lions' defensive coordinator, was blocked from joining the Lions earlier by former G.M. Bruce Allen. He was grateful to the Bucs for allowing him to join USC's coaching staff, which is led by Lane Kiffin and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whom Barry considers a mentor.
"I have an unbelievable relationship with both guys," said Barry said of Dominik and Raheem Morris. "I tip my hat to them and tip my hat to the Glazers because ultimately it's up to them and their decision. I thank them for doing the right thing and allowing me to pursue this. It was an opportunity I had to go to USC that I simply couldn't turn down. I thank everyone involved for allowing me to pursue this opportunity. It's something I'm looking forward to.
"I don't know if there's ever been 10 days that have gone by where I didn't talk to Monte. He and I haven't worked together for three years now, but it was a situation where Tennessee and I talked a few times and they asked me if I was interested, and I was, but it really didn't go beyond that. The thing with USC when they first contacted me and asked me if there was interest I said, ‘Of course.' I've known Lane forever and Monte is the best. I'm a USC alumni. I proposed to my wife on the USC campus. There's a lot of things there that are special to me regarding USC. We have a saying at USC that you go here for four years, but you're a Trojan for life. It's really a special place. It's bittersweet because Tampa has been our home base since 2002 and I have a lot of great friends and memories here, but USC is a great opportunity."
Barry enjoyed his two different coaching stints in Tampa Bay, but believes he's leaving the Bucs in good hands with Baker and Lake filling in at linebackers and defensive backs coach, respectively.
"Jimmy will do great in Tampa," said Barry. "I worked with him in Detroit and he had a tough run at it there, but I don't know many people that were successful in Detroit. He and Raheem have a great relationship and I think Jimmy is the perfect fit there.
"The great thing about Joe Baker is he is a great coach. He's coached the secondary, he coached the linebackers in Denver in his last year and he's even been an assistant on the offensive line. When you have a guy that has all those different stops on his pad it tells me he's a good coach because it doesn't matter what position he's coaching, he can coach football. He's a great coach and he's a great teacher. I think there will be a learning curve for him like anything when you go to coach a position you're not quite familiar with, but he's one hell of a coach."
Tampa Bay's coaching staff is complete on the defensive side of the ball and no longer includes Jim Bates, who has been replaced by head coach Raheem Morris, who will continue to serve as the team's defensive coordinator.
Morris is charged with balancing both job responsibilities and helping Tampa Bay's defense improve. The 3-13 Bucs defense ranked 27th overall and 32nd against the run. Dominik isn't concerned about Morris' ability to handle both jobs in 2010.
"I think that's our staff's responsibility to help him," said Dominik. "That's Jimmy Lake, Joe Baker, [defensive line coach] Todd Wash, [defensive line coach] Robert Nunn, and [assistant DBs coach] Duane Stukes. It's our staff's responsibility to really work together to get Raheem as prepared as possible. I don't know a lot of coaches that want a fake title that would allow them to be the defensive coordinator, but not call plays."
While the defensive side of the football is set, the Bucs still are in the process of attempting to fill open spots at their wide receivers and quarterbacks coaching positions. Dominik, Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson are conducting interviews in Mobile, but hope to have both coaching positions filled by next Friday.
"We've paired down our list of candidates," said Dominik. "We're interviewing the majority of them here and maybe one or two back in Tampa."
Tampa Bay's wide receivers coaching position opened up when the Bucs opted not to renew Richard Mann's contract. Like Barry, Mann had been with the team since 2002, but expressed interest in interviewing with the Washington Redskins this offseason.
"The decision at the end of the season was to go in a different direction," said Dominik. "Coach Mann had the opportunity in Washington with Bruce Allen being there. It was a team decision. It had nothing to do with his pay or salary. We just decided to move on and search for a new receivers coach."
Some believe Mann's departure from Tampa Bay could mean wide receiver Antonio Bryant's days with the Bucs are numbered. Bryant and Mann had a good working relationship, and Bryant, who was the team's franchise player in 2009, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Mar. 5.
"The decisions by players, agents and organizations factor a lot around money, but it also involves what direction we want to head in as a team," said Dominik. "We'll discuss Antonio Bryant and free agency. We're keeping our options open at this point. A lot has to be determined regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement."
The Bucs have several candidates for the wide receivers coaching position, including assistant wide receivers coach Tim Berbenich, who is also a candidate for the quarterbacks coaching position as is University of Washington quarterbacks coach Doug Nussemier. Berbenich is one of the people the Bucs could interview when they return to Tampa later this week.
But before they leave Mobile the Bucs will interview former wide receiver Keenan McCardell for the WRs coaching job. PewterReport.com is reporting the Bucs are scheduled to interview McCardell, who played with the Bucs from 2002-04, on Tuesday night. McCardell helped the Bucs win Super Bowl XXXVII, but was traded to San Diego in 2004 after a long contract dispute and holdout. He recently served as a receivers coach for the West squad at the East-West Shrine Game.
In addition to McCardell, Tampa Bay could also interview former wide receiver Ike Hilliard, who is in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, but hasn't scheduled an interview with the team yet.
"I'm not going to talk about coaches that we're thinking about hiring," said Dominik. "Former players that have played for us are always intriguing. We will look from college, former players, and professional coaches to make sure we get the right people we need. I have a lot of respect for Ike Hilliard."
Dominik said the uncertainty surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement hasn't hindered Tampa Bay's efforts to hire new assistant coaches from the college or professional ranks.
"No, it really hasn't," said Dominik. "When we have talked about quarterbacks coaches and receivers coaches we've talked about their qualifications, we're not talking about finding the cheapest person possible or guys that will sign one-year deals."
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