There have been rumors that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are interested in New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for weeks now. Fewell's reputation has soared in the past month, as he's gotten a pretty mediocre Giants defense to stifle some really good offenses in the past few weeks. His defense wasn't very good during the season, but it got hot when it counted, and it's gotten him some time in the spotlight.
Fewell has been in the league longer for these past few games, however. He has a solid reputation as a defensive coordinator, and produced a very good unit last year in New York (3rd in the league by Football Outsiders' numbers). He wasn't able to replicate that this season, in part because of injuries and a lack of talent in the back seven, but that doesn't diminish that performance. In his four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills he also managed to produce some middle-of-the-pack defenses despite having very little talent to work with. His 2009 defense was pretty strong, ranking 8th in the league by Football Outsiders' numbers.
Fewell even has some experience as a head coach, taking over a 3-6 2009 Bills team that was getting blown out every other week, going 3-4 in the remaining games while keeping every loss but one within a single score. So, he has qualifications and a resume. The question is: will the Bucs wait until next week to bring him in? With the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, they can't interview him until next week. Whether the Giants win or not, they will be allowed to interview him.
Special assistant, North Carolina, 1985-1986
Assistant coach, Army, 1987
Defensive assistant, Kent State, 1998-1991
Defensive assistant, Army, 1992-1994
Assistant head coach & defensive backs coach, Vanderbilt, 1995-1997
Defensive backs coach, Jacksonville Jaguars, 1998-2002
Defensive backs coach, St. Louis Rams, 2003-2004
Defensive backs coach, Chicago Bears, 2005
Defensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills, 2006-2009
Interim head coach, Buffalo Bills, 2009
Defensive coordinator, New York Giants, 2010-present
Why Perry Fewell should be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' next head coach:
- He's produced good defenses despite a lack of talent
While Perry Fewell's defenses have never been stellar (with the possible exception of last year) they have never been bad either. And that alone is pretty impressive given the fact that his defenses have consistently lacked talent. He's managed to get the most out of talentless units, and when he has had talent he's produced some good defenses. His 2010 Giants defense led the NFL with 39 takeaways, for instance. In fact, his defenses consistently produce turnovers and tend to excel against the pass, an important factor in NFL success.
So, Perry Fewell should be able to bring a quality defense to Tampa Bay, even if the Bucs don't massively improve their talent level on defense. Fewell has consistently managed to get the most out of below-average talent. He could do that again in Tampa Bay.
- Coaches an aggressive 4-3 defense
The Bucs have drafted players to fit an aggressive 4-3 defense the past years. They've invested four high picks on the defensive line to that effect. That defensive line may be the most talented unit on the team, and the Bucs need to get the most out of that unit. To do so, they need to stick with a scheme that maximizes their talent: an aggressive, up-the-field, 4-3 defense.
That happens to be exactly what Perry Fewell runs, which would help the Bucs' transition to a new head coach.
- Has the experience and network to assemble a quality coaching staff
Perry Fewell has spent 26 years as a coach, 14 of those years in the NFL, and has coached for five different NFL teams. That should give him a lot of contacts throughout the NFL - plenty to assemble a good coaching staff. Having a little success and experience as a head coach should help him get started quickly, further easing the transition.
- What about offense?
Perry Fewell should be able to coach up the defense, but can he improve the offense - and can he bring in the right assistant coaches to help develop this team? If Josh Freeman doesn't improve, this team goes nowhere. Fewell has a lot of experience in the NFL and should have a wide network of assistants to choose from, but can he get the right offensive coaches to aid him? Perhaps equally important: will his philosophy toward building a team and managing a game be aggressive enough as a defensive-minded coach?
- Run defense?
The Bucs have had issues stopping the run for years, now. That doesn't need to be a huge problem - pass defense is more important than run defense, but I would sure like to see some good, physical run defense. Yet that's been Perry Fewell's Achilles heel throughout his tenure. While he's intermittently produced excellent pass defenses, his run defenses have always been subpar and gap integrity problems have marked his tenure with the Giants.
Can he be a head coach?
While he has a little experience as an interim head coach, it's hard to say Fewell has demonstrated the necessary skills to lead a franchise. Can he put together a coaching staff, organize a team and oversee operations? He has experience leading a phase of the game as a defensive coordinator, but can he translate that to leading an entire team? After all, defensive coordinators bust more often than any other head coach.