Greg Schiano entered the NFL as a defensive backs coach with the Bears, so when his team came within a few yards of setting the league record for the most passing yards allowed last season, it was personal.
That's why he told defensive backs coach Ron Cooper to look for a new job. It's why 49ers All-Pro S Deshon Goldson was a must-sign at the start of free agency. It's also why the Bucs are willing to mortgage a good bit of their future to trade for Jets CB Darrelle Revis.
Tampa Bay allowed a staggering 11 completions of more than 40 yards and 69 of at least 20 yards last season.
"The big pass plays, those are killers," Schiano said. "They not only affect the game, but they affect the momentum of the game. When you're at home, it sucks the life out of your crowd, and when you're on the road, it ignites the crowd.
"Some of the changes we made are the result of people not doing things exactly how we wanted them done. We did make a staff change. I'm not going to duck that. … It's even more frustrating for me because that's supposed to be your area of expertise."
Fixing the problem began by replacing Cooper (who took a similar job at USF) with Jaguars defensive backs coach Tony Oden. Then the Bucs had to wrestle Goldson away from the Patriots, who also were major suitors, with a five-year, $41.25 million contract.
"(Goldson) represents who we are," Schiano said. "He's smart, he's tough, he's an intimidating player, in my opinion. That's kind of the way we want to play. He runs to the football relentlessly, and … we want to build our defense around … guys who play that way."
Schiano acknowledges Goldson and S Mark Barron share similar traits. Both are big hitters who thrive against the run but are adequate in coverage. "It doesn't matter to me," Schiano said. "We're actually an interchangeable safety defense. So there's not really a cover guy and a box guy."
The Bucs view Revis as a game-changing player worth paying twice for. They're willing to consider sending their first-round draft pick (preferably in 2014) and perhaps another high draft choice to the Jets, and they'd have to pay Revis about $15 million per year.
It's a chips-in-the-middle-of-the-table play by general manager Mark Dominik and Schiano. But in order for the Bucs to win Super Bowl XXXVII, they gave up a king's ransom for WR Keyshawn Johnson (a pair of first-round picks to the Jets) and four high draft picks to acquire coach Jon Gruden from the Raiders.
Those deals came back to hurt the Bucs in later years, but they'd do such a move again if it meant finding room for a second Lombardi Trophy. But the Bucs lose interest in Revis each day the Jets drag their heels.
BULLY ON BOWERS-CLAYBORN: Better coverage on the back end will help the Bucs' pass rush, which has been stuck in the mid 20s in sacks and near the bottom of the league for the past three seasons. Tampa Bay still would like to add another pass rusher and needs a defensive tackle to replace Michael Bennett and Roy Miller. But what they are banking on is a big year from DEs Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.
Clayborn showed speed and a lot of promise before his knee injury last season. Bowers missed the first half of the year recovering from an Achilles tear but used the time off in the weight room to get stronger.
"He's a tremendous athlete for a man his size," Schiano said. "He's explosive, and he's done it. If I'd never saw him do it, I would be concerned. It's our job to make him do it consistently. When you look at Da'Quan and say he hasn't been able to do it for a 16-game season, neither had Gerald (McCoy) until (last) year."
Is Bowers good enough to finish 2013 with double-digit sacks? "He needs to be. He should be," Schiano said. "That's why we drafted him."