New Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Jim Bates met with the media Wednesday for the first time since being hired last month.
Bates, 62, has 14 years coaching experience in the NFL. His most recent coaching gig was with the Denver Broncos in 2007, which ended with his departure after just one season.
Prior to his one-year stint with Denver, Bates spent one season (2005) as the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator. He was a head coaching candidate in Green Bay and Miami, where he served as defensive coordinator from 2000-04.
Bates, whose son Jeremy served as an offensive quality control coach under former head coach Jon Gruden and is now the offensive coordinator at USC, began his coaching career in 1991 with Cleveland and got his first defensive coordinator job with Atlanta in 1994. He also worked with the Dallas Cowboys from 1996-1999.
The most success Bates had was in Miami, where his defenses ranked sixth (2000), fifth (2001), third (2002), 10th (2003) and eighth (2004). The Dolphins defense notched 212 sacks (42 avg. per season) and 103 interceptions (21 avg.) in five seasons.
What defensive scheme does Bates plan to implement in Tampa Bay? What does he look for in defensive tackles? What does Bates think of Tampa Bay's current defensive personnel?
Pewter Report provides this edited Q&A transcript of Bates' interview from One Buccaneer Place.
Jim Bates' opening statement
"It's been a busy, busy time. We're looking for a home for our family. We've finalized our coaching staff and I've just been getting oriented with the organization and studying the players that we have and the ones in free agency and the draft. We're going to Indy on Friday. We've been putting a playbook together and doing cutups. Guys, we have a lot on the plate right now. But it's an exciting time. I'm really pleased to be here with [head coach] Raheem Morris and [general manager] Mark Dominik and the Glazers, who have had a great organization. I'm really excited about being here. When Raheem called me and I talked to my wife it all came together. This is where we wanted to be. If we had to pick a team there couldn't have been a better team for us to pick. The fans here are tremendous, and it's always fun when you have passionate fans and it is an exciting time. We have a lot of work to do, but we have a very good coaching staff. It's a younger group. I've worked with two of the guys – [defensive line coach] Robert Nunn and [defensive backs coach] Joe Baker. I've known [linebackers coach] Joey Barry since he was 13. This is a real close group. That's important to have good camaraderie within your coaching staff because you're with each other 14-16 hours per day. If you don't have that it's hard. Sometimes you feel like a guy may have a different agenda, but with these guys there are no egos in the room. They just want to win and work at football, and there is a true passion there. That's very exciting."
What have your impressions been of Tampa Bay's run on defense over the last decade, and have any impressions changed as you've looked closer?
"Monte [Kiffin] is a good friend of mine. This goes back to the college years when Monte was one of the top defensive coaches in college and here in Tampa Bay especially. I have nothing but respect for Monte and what this coaching staff has done over the years defensively. There have been a lot of people copying the Tampa 2 in terms of putting it in their defenses. I have a great respect for the players. It's going to be an easier transition for us, me in particular, for how the team has played with such passion and aggressiveness. There is good character on this team. The guys that are in town have all come to see us. You can just feel the passion for football. These are good character people that want to play as a team. It's going to be an easier transition."
Is Monte Kiffin a tough act for you to follow in Tampa Bay?
"I'd rather come in following Monte than to come into some place and work where they haven't been passionate and haven't had the team feeling or haven't played good defense. I'm glad I'm coming in here. We have big shoes to fill, but we've also had some great defenses over the years. We're just looking forward to the challenge."
Tell us how different or similar your defensive scheme is compared to the Tampa 2 and what Monte ran here?
"We're in the study right now as what we've done in the past for years and years. It will be a constant for the next couple of months of putting it all together. We will be running a lot of with what we've had great success in. We're going to use what the players were comfortable with under Monte in certain areas. The blend is going to be for the better. The fronts will change a little bit. We're a little more of a constant 4-3, we're not as much of an over and under front defense. We still will have the 4-3 principles that we've done. That will be a very easy transition. Terminology will change. It's a very player-friendly terminology that they'll be able to acquire without any difficulty. If one thing strikes you more than anything, it will be the corners will play a lot more bump coverage. We will play off and do some things they've done and been successful in doing in the past, but we will be a lot more aggressive with corner play and the bump technique."
Do you feel like the current personnel in Tampa Bay is capable of playing in your defense?
"Yes. The thing is if there is a player that hasn't adjusted or can't do it he can still play within the system with a different technique. We're not going to put a guy out there that can't bump and put him in a non-fair situation"
What about the defensive tackles? Will you stick with the one gap scheme or go to more of a two-gap scheme with a big defensive tackle in there?
"It's a one-gap principle defense. You'll see some guys close to head up, but it's still a gap principle. There won't be two-gapping involved."
Some of the prototype defensive tackles you had in Miami were big guys. Tampa Bay has traditionally had an undersized defensive line. In terms of what your prototype defensive tackle is, are you looking for bigger guys or just good football players?
"We're looking for good football players, but size is important. Unless you're moving the guys around a lot on stunts and moving them, they can wear down a lot. In Miami we lost Tim Bowens and Larry Chester for the year. We lost Bowens in the first game and Chester in the second game, but we were still able to play our system and play at a high level with undersized tackles. But we did do a sub system where they weren't playing 55-60 plays per game. It's important to have a rotation. It has been our past that if you dress on Sunday you're gong to play. It isn't like it used to be when I first came in the league. If you were the first defensive tackle you were going to play until you were hurt. We will sub. If they're good enough to play on Sundays we'll play them. It does two things. It adds to your practice and team as far as when you go into a room and you have a tackle that hasn't played and he's dressing out, it just adds to it. Now he knows he's going to play, so now the practice tempo picks up and the room picks up. It just brings them together. It also saves players if you're rotating them towards the end of the season."
The pass rush hasn't been up to par here in recent years. You've watched the tape. How do you anticipate addressing that?
"It all depends. If we're really good we'll rush four. If we can rush four and defend with seven that's the way we'll go. If we need to bring five or six, or all out blitz we will have it in place. If you were to ask any defensive coordinator which they'd rather be, you'd rather be a four-man rush and get after them. We do play tight match coverage, so the quarterback holds the ball. We've had tremendous success and proven a lot of sacks as far as with our four man rush. Jason Taylor had 2.5 sacks, and he went in there and had 14.5 and 17. Trace Armstrong went from single digits to 16.5 in his only Pro Bowl year. Adewale Ogunleye came in and had 16.5. Aaron Kampmann went from single digits to 16..5. We've had a lot of success. Now, they have to have ability. If they don't have ability we can coach into the hours and not get it done. If they have it, the quarterback is going to hold that ball a little longer with some of the things we do, and that's all it takes."
Does Gaines Adams have that ability?
"Yes, he does have that ability. I'm looking forward to working with him. You never know until you get into the season in terms of what different things we'll do with Gaines Adams to hopefully help him. Experience helps in this league, especially in the defensive line play. It takes a while for some of them to grasp the game and get some different ways of rushing and not just being a speed guy. Sometimes guys are speed rushers in college and they get in this league and that doesn't work because the ball comes out too quickly. You have to have what we call some different pitches. If you only have a fastball you better look out because they're going to hit some homeruns against you, so you have to have some changeups, too."
Monte was known as a high-energy coach. You are, too. Where does that come from?
"That's the way I've always coached. I'm high energy. That's just the way I feel like, and I think you have to coach to your personality. That's the way I coach, and when I can't do that I won't coach anymore."
What are you looking for in a player besides the talent?
"How much passion does he have to play the game? You can take some great athletes and if they don't have the passion to play at the highest level it won't work out. Some of them are great athletes, but if they don't have a passion to play at the highest level, some of them hit The Peter Principle and can't play at this level because they can't adjust and something may be missing. But once they can play the technique, they have passion, they're a team player then the guy has a good chance of improving with our coaches and becoming a good football player. The mental part is also important. If a guy can't think it will be tough. Some guys get it and some guys are rep guys that need the reps to learn. That is coaching. Our job is to give him the best edge to being successful on Sunday. The players are looking for help in becoming a better player. That is our job as coaches."
Have you talked to Monte about the personnel he's left behind here?
"Monte was so busy with recruiting and learning all the ropes in Tennessee. I have talked to Monte. I have not gotten to where we talk personnel. We have not done that. He's been so busy, but I will talk to him. We know each other so well. He's a good resource that we plan to use."
You had a star middle linebacker with the Dolphins in Zach Thomas. What do you think of Barrett Ruud based on the film you've watched?
"Barrett is doing a fine job. I enjoyed visiting with Barrett the other day. He's real bright. He can handle all the calls and checks. He has the speed and quickness to be really good within the scheme."
Who are some of the guys that stood out to you when watching film of the Bucs?
"I'm not going to get into all of that right now. I will later on after there is more study done and when I get a better feel for how guys fit in."
How much do you think Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks have left in the tank?
"We're evaluating that at this time. Those are two accomplished guys. I am familiar with them from watching them from afar. It's kind of like you guys watching Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor when I was in Miami. We are not ready to make any decisions. As the weeks go on it will be exciting for us and exciting for all of you to see how this team is coming together."
You're going to talk to Monte, but is there a part of you that says we're going to have a clean break and players will get a fresh start?
"Everybody is going to get a clean start. All I want from Monte is some of the things he can help us with. I'm not going to ask him to go into too much detail. Everybody that starts in our system has to have a fresh start. Sometimes players feel like they were left behind and you might be able to bring that player to a whole new level. It's a very good question. I'm not going to have the process of, ‘Monte didn't like this guy, so I'm not going to like this guy.' You can't do that, but very good question."
What are your expectations. How good is this defense going to be?
"Looking at it right now and all we have to do this can be an excellent defense and I don't think we should have any falloff. In fact, we hope to get better as a defense. There are high expectations. Those have been here ever since Monte was here. We will continue to have high expectations and play at a very, very high level."
You mentioned that there shouldn't be a falloff, but Tampa Bay's defense did fall off in December of last year, especially against the run. In your film study were you able to find some reasons why the defense struggled?
"I didn't watch scheme-wise. I was watching individuals and that's what our coaches have been doing. I can't tell you what happened, whether the defense wore down or the gap control wasn't as good as it was before. I really wasn't into watching that as much as I was watching the individuals. We know there was a falloff, and that was very disappointing to the fans and everybody in this building."
Will the linebackers' roles change at all?
"There will be some carry over, but there will be some changes in how we fit runs, but it won't be drastic. It won't be something where we can't make the transition."
Where is the juice for you in coaching?
"It's all of it. The real fun time for me is when we get on the field. That's home for me. Sometimes the meetings get old as you get older, but you have to do it. The preparation is really fun. Then when you have a great day in terms of the game plan being executed, that's total fun to me."
What's the most fun you've ever had in that sense?
"There's a lot of games. We shut out Craig James and Eric Dickerson when I was at Texas Tech. To shut those guys out when they were rolling at a high level, that was something. There have been so many games at Tennessee and Florida. We kicked Auburn's butt. You can go back and find a lot of games over the years."
What happened to the defensive roots in your family? Your son Jeremy is the offensive coordinator at USC.
"I told him, I said, ‘Jeremy, if you want to move fast in the coaching profession go offense.' The one thing he has is I can mentor Jeremy. I had some mentors, but I didn't have a guy that I could hang my hat on. My high school coach was a tremendous mentor, but that was in high school. Jeremy, offense, I know. He's always asking me, ‘Are you going to give me a play that hurts you, Dad?' I said, ‘No.'"
What is it going to be like working for a guy that is as young as your son Jeremy and how much input do you think Raheem will have since he is a defensive guy?
"Our relationship is great. This is a great opportunity for Raheem. A lot of young guys are getting that opportunity now, and Raheem has got it and he's jumping all over it. I just feel grateful that Raheem considered me as a defensive coordinator. Raheem will have input. He's a head coach, and he's handling it like a head coach. It isn't like he's in every meeting, but he comes in, gets up to date with what we're doing and he wants to know what we're doing. We want Raheem's influences in terms of if he sees something that can help us defensively, of course we want his input. It's a great working relationship."
Is Raheem ready for this opportunity?
"You never know if somebody is ready. Was [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin ready? Sure, I think Raheem is jumping all over this opportunity. He's hired an excellent coaching staff, and it's our job to help us win games. If we win games that's all to be decided. Raheem will do a great job in his role. Age is not a factor. Sometimes a younger guy can get closer to the team than some of us older guys."
Who was the youngest coach you ever worked for?
"Gee. Let me think. That's a tough question. Have you seen how many places I've been?"
Does the competitor in you say, ‘You can come up with all the bells and whistles you want on offense, but we'll still figure out a way to get you on defense?'"
"You have all watched [Colts quarterback] Peyton Manning on television and in games, but when you're watching that tape it will make you a little bit crazy. It's scary. When you have perfect coverage and he's back there and then he lays it in there in a spot where the only one that has a chance to catch it is the receiver. When you see that over and over again it gets your attention. We had great success [against him]. I don't' know how we did it to this day, but I think we beat him five out of seven or close to that. They had trouble against us because we had a plan that worked. We had the formula, even though we were scared to death they were going to hang 50 on us, we had success."
Is there anyone else that comes as close to Manning on film?
"[Patriots QB] Tom Brady. There have been several quarterbacks over the years, but Brady and Manning are the more recent ones. [Saints] Drew Brees has really improved his game. What is also fun is to watch the tape and see how these guys have improved their games as they get older. But this is where it is at. Pro football features the best of the best."
Do you still aspire to be a head coach one day or is that over?
"There were certain times where it didn't happen so you move on. Of course I would have liked to have been a head coach. The Miami thing and the Green Bay thing. It was close. It was tough. There was no bitterness. It was just a tough, tough deal because we did so many things with average personnel. But it was a fun time and I really enjoyed Green Bay. I'm glad to be where I'm at. That's where I'm happy. I'm happy to be defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Bucs. I couldn't be happier, and you couldn't give me a better job than this, especially with the people I'm working with, ownership and the fans. I am in the best situation Jim Bates could be in right now."
This defense was in place for a long time and was probably more of a containment-type defense. Yours appears to be more aggressive. Is that a fair assessment?
"Monte's scheme, there are a lot of similarities in terms of how we approach the game. I don't think you can say we're more aggressive. Tampa Bay was aggressive as any team week in and week out over the years. We're going to have different techniques and employment in terms of how we defend things. I wouldn't say we're more aggressive than what you've seen here before. We will just do it in different ways."
Will the safeties' responsibilities change from what they've done in the past in Tampa Bay?
"They've done everything we do. Monte played a lot more Quarters defense last year, and of course Tampa 2 coverage. He played some four under, three deep. It won't change a whole lot. The safeties have played similar roles. The alignment could change a little, but it's basically the same thing. They'll be fine."
Can you talk about your stint in Denver and why that didn't work out?
"It was a year that was uncommon from my whole history. It was just one of those things where it didn't happen. Things didn't fit right. A lot of things didn't fit right. It was a tough, tough year. I'm just looking forward, not looking back."
Once you resigned in Denver did you want to get back into coaching? You took one year off, so did you expect to hear from the Bucs this offseason?
"I heard from several people. This was the job. I heard from other people, but I didn't have an interest. This opportunity here lit me up. This is where I wanted to be and I'm just grateful to be here."