Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers need Butch Davis to coach, not advise

I like the coach. I like the idea of the hire. I like any plan that might turn the Bucs defense into something called "The Butcher Shop.''

That said, I would like it a lot more if Butch Davis was in talks to join the Bucs to be the team's defensive coordinator instead of a guy with a vague title and vague responsibilities.

In other words, let's get this guy on the field. Soon.

When you think about it, isn't everyone in favor of making the Bucs defense more Butch?

Whatever the role he would have for new head coach Greg Schiano, Davis would be an asset. Start with that. He has spent a lot of time on the sideline, and he has been a part of a lot of victories. He was a fine assistant at the University of Miami and with the NFL Cowboys, and a successful head coach at UM. More important, he has made the jump from the college game to the NFL twice, once to the Cowboys (which worked out wonderfully) and once to the Browns (which didn't).

On a staff where Schiano is trying to make the same leap, Davis could be an invaluable adviser. Who better to clear his throat and say, "Greg, we tried that in Cleveland, and it was a mistake.'' Or "Have you thought about this? It worked for us in Dallas.'' Or "You know, looking back, Kelly Holcomb was a mistake.''

For coaches who try to cross the bridge from college to the NFL, such a voice can be invaluable. Call it a guide through the minefield.

On this Bucs staff, Davis could be an anchor. For instance, Schiano has gotten decent reviews, but he has never been an NFL head coach. It's hard not to like the job new offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan did with Eli Manning while with the Giants, but he has never been an offensive coordinator. A lot of the new assistants will work in the NFL for the first time. That means an experienced defensive coordinator would be terrific, especially when you look at the quarterbacks in the NFC South.

Part of the reason Jim Harbaugh, former college coach, was a success with the 49ers this past season is that he had a defensive coordinator such as Vic Fangio, who worked with him at Stanford but had 24 years as an NFL assistant before that. And part of the reason Steve Spurrier, former NFL coach, was doomed with the Redskins was that his staff didn't have a longtime assistant who could suggest what sort of blitz pickups worked in the NFL.

Perhaps that is why Davis seems like such a good fit with the Bucs. After all the names the Bucs have been through on their slow plod to build a staff, like a team shopping for grapes during a two-minute drive, it's about time someone's attributes were obvious.

You had to wonder what the problem has been. Did the Bucs take so long in shopping for a head coach that all the obvious assistants have been snapped up? Is there a negative reaction when coaches ask about One Buc as a place to work? There have been so many blocked candidates, and so many who have said no, something seems to be the problem.

With Davis, the response seems to be good. Even his forgettable days in Cleveland aren't being held against him. Of course, what other kinds of days are there with the Browns, who, frankly, haven't made the playoffs since he left.

And yet, here comes the bad news. Davis would be an adviser with the Bucs. He would not be a coach. He would not be on the field trying to turn Gerald McCoy into Russell Maryland and Adrian Clayborn into Leon Lett.

Just asking, but doesn't that lessen any impact Davis could have? Wouldn't he be better on the field than looking at practice through a window?

The rub, of course, is that Davis is in the middle of a $2.7 million buyout from the University of North Carolina that prohibits him from coaching. That's pretty good money not to coach.

Here's an idea for the Bucs: Why not pick up the phone? Why not negotiate a settlement with North Carolina? That way the school spends less money, Davis gets his severance, and the Bucs get Davis in the job he should have. Assuming Davis wants to coach, wouldn't that be better for everyone involved? Money wasn't going to get in the way of hiring the right guy. Remember?

Has Davis had a perfect career? Of course not. There was scandal in North Carolina (Holden Thorp, the school's chancellor, said he did not think Davis was aware of NCAA violations), and there were ticked-off Miami fans when Davis left after saying he wouldn't, and there was the 24-35 record in Cleveland (looking back, the Browns were too big a mess for Davis, especially as Tim Couch's career was ended by injuries).

(Butch trivia for $400: The last two No. 1 draft picks Davis had when he was with Cleveland? Jeff Faine and Kellen Winslow Jr.)

Through all the turmoil, I've always had a soft spot for Davis. It probably started a lot of years ago, when I was a young reporter and he was a young Miami defensive line coach. At the time, I was trying to write a story on how Miami's defense had just snuffed Oklahoma's feared wishbone.

In the middle of the euphoria, Davis pulled the notebook out of my hand and began to diagram plays. First you have to stop this. Then you have stop that. Then you have to do this. He was simple. He was direct.

In that moment, I thought two things: First, I should share the byline with Davis. Second, he was a pretty sharp cookie.

In the good years in Dallas, and after he returned to UM, that was the key to Davis: He always seemed to communicate. The Bucs could use some of that. Even now I think he has the ability to help. Even now I think the Bucs would be better off with Davis than without him.

If he's coming, however, it should be on the field, where he belongs.

After all, the defense gets plenty of advice.

What it needs is a little coordination.

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