Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan drawn to Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of Josh Freeman

TAMPA — There are several reasons becoming the Bucs' new offensive coordinator is a good move for Mike Sullivan.

For a longtime position coach, career advancement is among them. The good vibes Sullivan got from new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano make the list, too.

But as much as anything, Eli Manning's former position coach said Wednesday at One Buc Place: "The attraction was having an opportunity to work with a special talent like Josh Freeman."

Sullivan was hired away from the Giants on Friday, succeeding the fired Greg Olson in Tampa Bay. The Bucs' scheme could change dramatically, but Sullivan said he is confident they can produce largely because of who lines up under center.

"It's a quarterback-driven league," he said. "No matter how you slice it … you've got to have a quarterback. I think a lot of the things you look at with Josh Freeman — the skill set that he possesses, the youth, the ability, the size, the strength — there's an awful lot there that I'm just champing at the bit to work with."

Sullivan, 45, also referenced the backfield (likely running back LeGarrette Blount) and "a veteran offensive line" as elements that appealed to him.

But given his unfamiliarity with the personnel, Freeman remains the basis for Sullivan's confidence in being able to turn around an offense that ranked 27th in scoring in 2011.

Because the Bucs and Giants had four common opponents last season, Sullivan watched video of defenses the Bucs faced.

"And you see this very big, strong, athletic, tough competitor out there, and he catches your eye," Sullivan said of Freeman.

Freeman is coming off a season in which he threw a career-high 22 interceptions despite career bests in completion percentage (62.8) and yards (3,592). It's similar to the scenario Manning faced coming off 2010.

In his first season with Sullivan as quarterbacks coach, Manning threw for 4,002 yards and a career-high 31 touchdowns but also a career-high 25 interceptions. In 2011, he threw for 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions and led the Giants to a title, including being named Super Bowl MVP.

"I remember telling him," Sullivan said, " 'You know what, Eli? You're going to throw an interception. You're going to throw two. You're probably going to throw three. But let's make sure the son of a guns earn it. It's got to be a great play by the defense; just one of those that puts that guy in (the Pro Bowl). Make it be earned.' "

Before his two seasons as quarterbacks coach, Sullivan was the Giants receivers coach for six. He also spent two seasons as an assistant with the Jaguars and nine as an assistant in college.

Regarding his preparedness to become an NFL offensive coordinator for the first time, Sullivan said working in a key capacity under Giants coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride — he called them "two of the best offensive minds in the game" — helps.

"Being fortunate enough to have a say and provide input and be a part of the game planning process … I think one can't help but accumulate all that know­ledge."

Sullivan profusely thanked Coughlin and the Giants for allowing him to pursue the job. He was under contract and, per league rules, could have been blocked from interviewing.

"I'm extremely grateful and will forever remember the fact that Coach Coughlin was the one who gave me an opportunity at Jacksonville," Sullivan said. "He gave me a chance to come up to New York and coach receivers. He gave me a chance to coach the quarterbacks.

"I'm forever going to be in debt to he and (general manager) Jerry Reese for allowing me to pursue this incredible opportunity."

Report: Peyton has had four procedures

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has had four neck procedures, one more than previously acknowledged, SI.com reported.

The Colts must pay Manning, who turns 36 in March, a $28 mil­lion roster bonus by March 8 or release him.

Manning, 35, missed all of last season after having what was reported to be his third neck surgery in less than two years. SI.com didn't report a date for the fourth procedure but said it was between his May 23 surgery for a bulging disc and before his neck fusion surgery Sept. 9.

Said Manning's agent, Tom Condon: "I wouldn't have anything to say about all of that, one way or another."

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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