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Monte Kiffin

Title Defensive coordinator
College University of Southern California
Sport Football
Conference Pac-10
Born February 29, 1940 (1940-02-29) (age 70)
Place of birth Fort Payne, Alabama
Career highlights
Overall 16–17
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Super Bowl XXXVII champions
Playing career
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Position Lineman
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Nebraska (GA)
Nebraska (DC)
Arkansas (DC)
Arkansas (Assistant HC)
North Carolina State
Green Bay Packers (LB)
Buffalo Bills (LB)
Minnesota Vikings (LB)
New York Jets (LB)
Minnesota Vikings (DC)
Minnesota Vikings (LB)
New Orleans Saints (DC)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DC)
Tennessee (DC)

Monte Kiffin (born February 29, 1940 in Lexington, Nebraska) is an American football coach. He is widely considered to be one of the preeminent defensive coordinators in modern football,[1] as well as one of the greatest defensive coordinators in NFL history.[2] Father of the often imitated “Tampa Cover 2” defense, Kiffin's philosophy is one of the most influential in modern college and pro football.[3]

He currently serves as defensive coordinator for the USC Trojans Football program, where his son Lane Kiffin was named head coach on January 12, 2010.[4] He previously served 26 years as an NFL assistant coach, including 13 years as defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His defensive units have finished ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yards allowed 10 times during that period, an NFL record.[1]

Kiffin was paid about $1.2 million per year by Tennessee,[5] which made him the highest paid assistant coach in college football. He earned a reported $2 million annual salary from the Buccaneers[5] and has turned down several NFL head coaching jobs during his career.[2] To this day, Kiffin's only head coaching job was at North Carolina State University in 1980–82.



Monte Kiffin is a native of Lexington, Nebraska. From 1959–1963, Kiffin was an offensive and defensive tackle at the University of Nebraska. After a brief stint as a defensive end for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Kiffin returned to Nebraska as a defensive coach. In 1977, he moved to the University of Arkansas, and then in 1980, he got his one and only head coaching job at North Carolina State.

He then began a series of short stints in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings (twice), New York Jets, and New Orleans Saints. In 1996, he became the defensive coordinator for the Bucs.[6]

After Tony Dungy was dismissed by the Buccaneer front office following the 2001 season, Kiffin was persuaded by incoming head coach Jon Gruden to remain in Tampa and continue to run his defense. Kiffin had been interviewed for a head coaching position with the San Francisco 49ers. With the seamless transition on defense allowing the new coaching staff to focus intently on a more potent offensive philosophy, the result was an immediate balance between offense and defense that carried the Buccaneers to the organization's first championship in Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003 in San Diego, California.

Controversy has surrounded Kiffin's departure from Tampa Bay. After Lane Kiffin signed with Tennessee, Tampa's typically stout defense underperformed. The Bucs lost their final four games of the 2008 season, ending up 9-7, and missed the playoffs. Before this, no NFL team had ever missed the playoffs after achieving a record of 9-3. Reports stated that Gruden refused to allow Kiffin to announce his departure to Tennessee mid-season. Allegations were made that Kiffin refused to participate in normal coaching meetings. Neither Kiffin nor Jon Gruden have openly discussed these events.

Monte joined the University of Southern California coaching staff as a Defensive Coordinator, after his son Lane Kiffin became the head coach.[7]



Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
North Carolina State Wolfpack (ACC) (1980–1982)
1980 North Carolina State 6–5
1981 North Carolina State 4–7
1982 North Carolina State 6–5
North Carolina State: 16–17
Total: 16–17
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

Defensive philosophy

Monte Kiffin is the mastermind behind the Tampa 2 scheme, which is a slight modification of Tony Dungy's Cover 2. His defensive philosophy has several hallmarks.

  • Speed over size and strength. Coordinators that employ Kiffin-style defenses will often replace linebackers with safeties and linemen with linebackers in order to put more speed on the field, an approach known as spinning down. In particular, linebackers must be able to cover receivers; in the Tampa 2 scheme, one linebacker frequently drops back deep into coverage, turning what looks like a Cover 2 defense into a Cover 3. Kiffin's defenses also employ large but quick defensive/nose tackles as run-stoppers.
  • Preventing scores over preventing yardage. A Kiffin coordinator doesn't care how many yards an offense gains, as long as the team doesn't score, an approach known as bend-but-don't-break.
  • Multiple defenses from one look. Kiffin-style defenses try to use the same personnel (or the same kind of personnel) at all times, so that the offense cannot adjust its play call based on the alignment of the defensive personnel.
  • Attacking and causing turnovers. Kiffin-style defenses focus on getting the ball away from the offense by stripping the ball away from the ball carrier or reading the quarterback to make an interception. The risk is that if the ball is not stripped or intercepted, then the ball carrier on offense has a better chance of gaining more yards or scoring; the reward is that the offensive drive is stopped without a score more often, frequently giving good field position.


Further reading

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bo Rein
North Carolina State head coach
Succeeded by
Tom Reed
Preceded by
Floyd Peters
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator
Succeeded by
Tony Dungy
Preceded by
Steve Sidwell
New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator
Succeeded by
Jim Haslett
Preceded by
Rusty Tillman
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator
Succeeded by
Jim Bates
Preceded by
John Chavis
Tennessee Volunteers defensive coordinator
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Rocky Seto
USC Trojans defensive coordinator
Succeeded by


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