Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Once successful, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers face adversity with the Detroit Lions

TAMPA — Cornerback Brian Kelly played a major role in the best run in Buccaneers history. He was a member of a perennial playoff team. He won a Super Bowl. He played on defenses discussed among the best ever.

In March, he signed with the Lions. He hasn't won since.

"It's tough," said Kelly, a Bucs second-round pick in 1998 out of Southern Cal. "I couldn't tell you anything different. It has been tough because we do want to win here, and I've won in the past with similar systems."

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about the futility of winless Detroit is how a group of players and coaches who have tasted consistent success elsewhere can't seem to find any in Motown, where the Lions are 0-10 and television blackouts have become the norm.

From the head coach down, the question can be asked. Coach Rod Marinelli spent 10 seasons with the Bucs coaching a defensive line that featured the likes of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was Tampa Bay's linebackers coach for six seasons, with pupils such as Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles. Now, his defense is ranked 31st out of 32 teams, allowing 402.1 yards.

Kelly was part of one of football's most feared secondaries in Tampa Bay, playing alongside Ronde Barber and John Lynch. Now, he regularly sees teams throw for multiple touchdowns against his unit.

Defensive end Dewayne White was a coveted free agent in the 2007 offseason, and the Lions signed him to a five-year, $29-million contract with designs on making him a cornerstone of their defense.

But for each, nothing has gone as planned.

Three coaches (defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake is the other) and six former Bucs are in Detroit, and while losing has taken its toll, Marinelli manages to maintain the even keel he had in Tampa Bay from 1996-2005.

"I am extremely proud of these men and how they are attacking this adversity," Marinelli, 59, said. "We are just off sometimes, a detail here, a detail there, a spill here, a spill there. We have to be able to bring that together."

It would seem applying Tampa Bay philosophies and strategies to the Lions has been a failure, but there remains a belief that the approach can work — if Marinelli is around to see it through.

"It's a building process," Kelly said. "Rod is building what he wants to build here for the Detroit Lions. He's taking a lot of what he did in Tampa and trying to implement a lot of that here in Detroit. It's just a process."

As for memories of Tampa, they are fond. Kelly left ungracefully, opting out of his contract to become a free agent.

"As far as Tampa, I think it was pretty obvious what direction they were going in and there's no hard feelings on my end," said the 32-year-old Kelly, likely referring to the Bucs' efforts to get younger in the secondary. "It's a business, and that's how the business goes. The time there was great."

Marinelli recalls Bucs coach Jon Gruden as a great strategist.

"He's absolutely the best in football (in knowing) how to win a close game," Marinelli said. "If he's behind, he knows how to crawl back into a game. Strategically, he's the best in football."

For now, Marinelli and his old friends are more concerned with improving their own wretched situation.

"Hey, the hand is tough," he said. "So be it. I expect us to respect this game, coach extremely hard every day, which we are. Then, the result comes if we just stay the course."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

Once successful, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers face adversity with the Detroit Lions 11/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 7:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    The 10 strikeouts look flashy, but RHP Chris Archer was not his sharpest Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including three straight in the two-run second and a Gary Sanchez homer in the third, and lasted only six innings, throwing 102 pitches.

  2. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  3. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  4. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years


    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard, left, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.
  5. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Friday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.