One former Buccaneer everyone will recognize is on a Super Bowl roster: Michael Bennett. The Bucs let him walk last offseason in a move that baffled everyone. He promptly signed with the Seattle Seahawks on a fairly cheap, one-year, $5 million contract and immediately turned into their most important defensive lineman. He plays more snaps than any other Seattle lineman, he leads that Super Bowl team in sacks, and plays both defensive end and defensive tackle. He's a key piece to their defense. So good, in fact, that Richard Sherman called him maybe their "most valuable player". Oops.
Oddly enough, Michael Bennett is the only Super Bowl player with a past as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At least as far as I can tell. That's a little weird. I'm not sure it's all that meaningful, but it may say something about the team's personnel decisions over, oh I don't know, the past decade or so.
Seattle Seahawks wide receivers coach Kippy Brown spent one year as the Buccaneers' running backs coach, way back in 1995. In addition, Denver Broncos' assistant special teams coach Keith Burns spent 2004 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a special teams player.
That's it for coaches' connections. A year ago, I could have talked about Todd Wash and Gus Bradley and a few other coaches with Bucs connections, but no more. The Broncos and Seahawks are largely Buc-free, sadly.
The biggest influence the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have in this game, though, will be the Seattle Seahawks' defensive scheme. Not because they play the Tampa 2, because they don't. They play predominantly Cover 3 and Man Free coverages. But philosophically, what the Seahawks do on defense is a modern-day version of what the Bucs did ten years ago. As Danny Kelly explains, you can sum up the pass defense with three principles:
1) Eliminate the big play
2) Out-hit the opponent
3) Get the ball
Those same principles were at the basis of the Tampa 2, popularized by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin. That's no coincidence: Seattle head coach Pete Carroll is a Kiffin disciple himself. Kiffin was one of the first coaches to give Carroll an opportunity when he was a graduate assistant under Kiffin at Arkansas. It's where Carroll learned the 4-3 Under alignment he's relied on ever since.
So why do the Seahawks not play the Tampa 2? For a number of reasons, including the fact that without dominant personnel, the Tampa 2 gets picked apart by elite quarterbacks these days. Recent rule changes to benefit the passing game and the evolving nature of pass offenses have made the Tampa 2 less effective as a go-to defense. Now it's a situational defense.
But there are other reason, too. One of those reasons: they have Earl Thomas at free safety. Thomas is what Ed Reed used to be -- fast, rangy and instinctive. No safety in the NFL covers more ground than Thomas. That allows the Seahawks to stop the big play with just one deep safety, rather than two -- which then allows them to keep Kam Chancellor, who's more linebacker than safety, in the box against the run.
Watch the Seahawks defense, and you'll see a lot of old Bucs tenets: everyone runs to the ball, as soon as someone catches the ball he's going to get hit, there will be very few big plays, and the defense relies on the front four to bring pressure, rather than blitzing a lot. In many ways, the Seahawks defense is the closest thing the NFL has to the old Tampa 2. And that means that just a little bit of Tampa Bay's most enduring NFL legacy is in the Super Bowl, once again.