We know that coaches aren’t just hired off the street because they look like they might know something about football. They usually have colorful back stories. Their own playing days. Becoming assistant coaches. Their first big break in the profession. Successes and even failures, these coaches have had various stops of each kind along the way. There are reasons why professional players will buy into what a coach is selling, and it is usually because of mutual respect and understanding. This is true of Mark Duffner, the man known simply as “Duff.”
Duffner played defensive end in college at William & Mary. After college he served as a graduate assistant at Ohio State University under legendary football coach Woody Hayes. He then became defensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati for four (4) years. His first head coaching position was at the College of the Holy Cross, where he compiled a 60-5 record, turning the Crusaders into a division IAA powerhouse, winning two (2) national Coach of the Year honors. The next stop for Duffner was the Maryland Terrapins, where his run and shoot offense would set longstanding records for both single game and season passing and receiving yards. The Terps’ defense, on the other hand, not so much. After five (5) years it was on to the NFL and Cincinnati, where Duff was first the linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator between 1997-2002. After stops in Green Bay, Jacksonville, and Miami, Coach Duffner was hired as the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach. After the firing of Mike Smith in October, he became the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator.
There was not a wholesale change when Duffner took over the defensive play calling. The addition of a dime package and some different stunts from the defensive line and linebackers took place, but the difference seems to be that the guys are playing hard for the coach they call Duff. Opposing offenses are averaging almost ten (10) points less a game. There is a sense again that our defense is going to find a way to kill drives. Guys are being put into position to make plays, and that has been exciting. One can’t help but wonder that if there is a shake-up at One Buc Place if this incredible coach with a resume the length of my arm might find himself out of a job. In that case somebody will hire him off of the street, not only because he looks like he might know something about football, but because he does.