FAB 2. Fulton Is A Coach On The Rise In Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a long history of having some great assistant coaches dating back to Joe Gibbs, who was the team’s offensive coordinator in 1978 before becoming Washington’s head coach in 1981, and Wayne Fontes, who was an assistant from 1976-84 before becoming the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 1985.
In more recent times under new Bucs Ring of Honor inductee Tony Dungy, the Bucs saw plenty of his assistants – Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tomlin – leave to become NFL head coaches. Jon Gruden saw his assistants Gus Bradley, Sean McVay and his brother, Jay, go on to become head coaches, too. One of Gruden’s other assistants, Raheem Morris, even replaced him as Tampa Bay’s head coach in 2009.
And of course no coach – head or assistant – has won more games (111) in Tampa Bay than Monte Kiffin, who was the team’s defensive coordinator from 1996-2008.
With the exception of Gibbs and Fontes, I’ve covered every other assistant I’ve named, and a couple of them really stand out. I remember Tomlin’s rise to prominence when he was the Bucs defensive backs coach under Dungy (2001) and Gruden (2002-05), and even featured him on the cover of an old Pewter Report magazine with the title “The Next Big Thing.” Tomlin had an aura about him that was special, and he would become Pittsburgh’s head coach two years later.
I remember the outspoken and energetic Morris making a real impression on coaches around the league while instructing the South defensive backs when the Bucs coached in the 2005 Senior Bowl. Standing on the sidelines next to other NFL coaches, Morris’ vibe created a real buzz, and prompted many to talk amongst themselves and ask, “Who’s that guy with all the energy?”
I also remember a wide receivers coach under Greg Schiano in 2012 named P.J. Fleck. Like Morris, Fleck was full of exuberance and charisma. He only lasted one year in Tampa Bay before becoming the head coach at Western Michigan in 2013 at the age of 32. Fleck is now the head coach at the University of Minnesota.
I know good assistant when I see them, and it won’t be long before offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who used to be the head coach at Southern Miss, gets on more radars for NFL and college head coaching positions. Monken and linebackers coach Mark Duffner, who was PewterReport.com’s Assistant Coach of the Year last season, may be the team’s best assistants next to defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
But there is another emerging talent on the coaching staff – first-year wide receivers coach Skyler Fulton, who was promoted to his position on January 29 when Monken, who was the previous receivers coach, moved to be the team’s full-time offensive coordinator. Fulton’s high-energy personality reminds me of Tomlin, Morris and Fleck, and big things could be in store for this young assistant coach.
“He’s always on,” said Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “You wouldn’t think that it’s his first year if you just came out here to watch practice. He was born to coach – he was born do this job. He’s a great speaker and he’s not afraid to challenge guys – no matter who you are. The one thing about Skyler is that he isn’t afraid to be the guy to call somebody out if they are not bringing their best.“
Fulton first joined the Buccaneers during the 2016 preseason as one of the team’s Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching fellows. In 2016, he became as the wide receivers and special teams coach for Citrus College, following a coaching stint with Grossmont College in 2015, where he worked as the team’s running backs coach.
Prior to that, Fulton worked with the wide receivers at Colorado (2009) and at his alma mater Arizona State (2005). Fulton was a receiver at Arizona State from 2001-03 under head coach Dirk Koetter, and led the Sun Devils with 10 touchdowns, in addition to 62 catches for 901 yards as a senior. Fulton briefly played in the NFL with Indianapolis, Minnesota and Seattle, while also playing a pair of seasons in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals.
In his late 30s, Fulton is making the most of his opportunity to lead his own room this season – a room that is star-studded with the likes of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Humphries and others.
“I think it’s going really well so far,” Fulton said. “You know ultimately the goal is to get better everyday. The goal of the group is to be the best group in the league. You do that by coming out every week and proving it on the field – not by talking about it. We’ve got a ton of good players, it’s extremely competitive, these guys are all pros and so far they have all come out and handled themselves on the field in the way we asked to, in terms of competing everyday for jobs. For snaps and playing times, even the guy that are starters and playing that we know are going to be here, it’s going to be competitive for snaps and targets and all of that so they’ve all done a really good job with effort and intensity.”
A lot of the great assistants have it, and it looks like Fulton does, too.
“I believe you mimic what you’re around and what you’re doing.” Fulton said. “As their position coach I look at it as my job to bring the energy every day and to hold those guys accountable. It’s no secret Mike Evans knows how to play football, DeSean Jackson knows how to play football, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries know how to play football. I’ll never sit here and act like I’m teaching them some new route they never knew or I’m pulling techniques on the field that are brand new.
But to get these guys and put them in a position to play to their strengths consistently and to be at optimal performance on Sundays is the goal and objective. How do you do that? Practicing hard on the field. I can’t go out and expect these guys to finish every drill and get all tired if I don’t run around and push them. I think the energy standpoint gets these guys going.”
Monken is a fiery coach full of experience and blunt talk that has served the receivers room well for years, but Fulton’s youth and energy really feed into what Tampa Bay’s receivers are all about. He brings a good deal of swagger to the table, and that was on display in Nashville as he was encouraging his receivers to get into the heads of the Titans defensive backs and talk trash after routinely beating them over two practices earlier this week.
✅ Evans with the one-handed TD
“At least he was in the picture this time!” pic.twitter.com/l1okF0cBBi
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 16, 2018
“He’s trying to bring the most out of us every play with his energy,” said receiver Freddie Martino. “You need a coach like that sometimes. Us receivers, I feel like we kind of run the team, so if our spirits are up and our energy is up, I think it kind of brings everybody with us. So with him being our coach and him exerting that energy towards us, there’s no other choice but for us to return that energy and the team will build on that.”
That’s the Fulton effect.