TAMPA — Bill Sheridan anticipated the questions before they were posed. He knew his first meeting with Tampa Bay media would be marked by inquiries about his historically poor defense with the Giants in 2009, his first and only season as an NFL defensive coordinator.
So, as the Bucs' new coordinator, he came prepared to tackle those questions head on. More important, he emphasized that the hard-learned lessons will serve him well in Tampa.
So, why did his defense give up the second-most points in franchise history and look nothing like a group two years removed from a Super Bowl title?
"Even though we started out the season 5-0 and we had the No. 1-ranked defense in the National Football League (at that point), after sustaining a couple of season-ending injuries to some starters … we started to falter and we hit a skid during the middle of the season," Sheridan said. "In hindsight, looking back, I think one of the things we probably did was we assumed, as a defensive staff, (that) things would get turned around."
They never did. The Giants lost eight of their next 11 games, and Sheridan was fired by coach Tom Coughlin. The 427 points yielded was third-most in the league that season behind the Lions and Rams, who combined for three wins.
Sheridan admitted another miscalculation. As injuries increased, he and his staff began using less complicated tactics to accommodate new starters and new signees, something offenses capitalized on.
"We tried to be very simple for them," Sheridan said. "But, in hindsight, I think we may have been guilty of maybe being too simple. It's great for your own players that you present to them a simplistic scheme that they can execute on Sunday, but you're also not posing enough issues for the teams you play against."
But there will be marked differences in Sheridan's experience as a coordinator in New York and this foray The most obvious: He'll run coach Greg Schiano's defense, not his own. Sheridan and Schiano discussed that during Sheridan's interview, and Sheridan said he fully accepts the arrangement.
Sheridan sees Schiano's extensive involvement in the defense as a plus.
"I view it as a gigantic advantage, that along with having (special assistant) Butch Davis on our side of the ball," Sheridan said. "It's going to be Greg Schiano's defense because he's our head coach and I'm coordinating for him. Obviously, he hired me because he thinks I have a lot of experience, knowledge and competence, and he's relying on that as well."
The Bucs will keep the 4-3 defense, with some changes. There will be some principles borrowed from the 3-4 Sheridan worked in with the Dolphins last season. For instance, some linemen will, at times, use a two-gap approach vs. the Bucs' traditional one-gap attack. And there will be a significantly more aggressive approach to pressuring quarterbacks.
Sheridan has spent his first couple of days on the job watching video of some of the Bucs' worst plays of 2011. In examining the big plays, Sheridan noticed a consistent theme.
"On the big pass plays, there wasn't any pressure," he said. "And I don't mean just four-down (lineman) pressure. Of course, if you can pressure the quarterback with four down (linemen), you're going to win in the National Football League.
"But from a schematic standpoint, the one thread was that (the big plays came against) a four-man rush. Now, you're vulnerable (when you blitz) because the passing game is so fantastic in this league. … But unless you disrupt the guy throwing it, it's tough sometimes to match up and cover the down-the-field routes."
APOLOGY FOR TEBOW COMMENTS: Brady Quinn apologized to Tim Tebow for unflattering comments about his fellow Broncos quarterback in a GQ article. About Tebow leaping over him on the depth chart to become the starter when Kyle Orton was benched, Quinn said, "I felt like the fans had a lot to do with that." Quinn also said in the article that the way Tebow expresses his faith doesn't "seem very humble to me." Both men are Christians.
OBITUARY: Tom Martinez, best known as Tom Brady's quarterbacking mentor, died Tuesday of a heart attack at 66, Boston TV station WVCB reported.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.