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Monte Kiffin, architect of ‘Tampa 2’ Super Bowl-winning defense, dies at 84

Thu Jul 11 8:51pm ET
Field Level Media

Super Bowl champion Monte Kiffin, 84, has died, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ole Miss Football announced on Thursday.

He passed in Oxford, Miss., surrounded by family and friends.

Kiffin was the defensive coordinator and architect of the Buccaneers' famed "Tampa 2" defense that gained popularity at all levels of football following its success in Tampa over a 13-year run under head coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden that resulted in the franchise's first NFL championship in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

He coordinated Hall of Fame defenders Warren Sapp, Darrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber over that run.

Kiffin was inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor in 2021.

In a statement issued by the Buccaneers, team ownership said:

"Monte Kiffin was a beloved and iconic member of the Buccaneers family, and our entire organization mourns his loss today. As a coach, Monte was a true innovator who got the best out of his players and helped create one of the signature defenses of the early 2000s. His passionate and energetic leadership style resonated with all his players, and he was instrumental in our first Super Bowl win and the success of Hall of Famers such as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber. Off the field, Monte was kind, genuine, gracious and always had a positive attitude. He was very special to the Buccaneers organization and our family. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Robin, son, Lane, daughter, Heidi, and the entire Kiffin family."

Kiffin's tenure in Tampa Bay ended when he departed to coach under his son, Lane, at the University of Tennessee in 2009. The pair moved to the University of Southern California the following year.

The elder Kiffin eventually returned to the NFL for stints with the Cowboys and Jaguars before once again joining his son at Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss in assistant/analyst roles.

A Nebraska collegian and professional football player for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Rifles, Kiffin quickly transitioned to coaching, taking a grad assistant job with his alma mater in 1966. He was eventually elevated to defensive coordinator and then left for the same job at Arkansas before being hired as the head coach at North Carolina State in 1980.

That position lasted just three years. He caught on with the Green Bay Packers as an assistant in 1983 and his career took off from there.

Stints with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and New Orleans Saints led him to Tampa Bay, where he would enjoy his greatest successes.

"I love that man and am so indebted to him," Lynch told the Tampa Bay Times. "Monte had a unique enthusiasm for life, football and family. He also had a passion for coaching -- and helping people like myself become the best version of themselves."

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