COVID-19 changed a lot about the 2020 NFL season. It was a year to remember for the Buccaneers, of course, given they came out of it as Super Bowl champions. But one change to Tampa Bay’s regular season that people might have forgotten about by the end of the year was that there was no Ring of Honor ceremony for the first time since the Raymond James Stadium Ring of Honor was introduced back in 2009.
It was announced in February of 2020 that longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would be the next to have his name displayed inside the stadium, becoming the franchise’s 14th inductee. But once it became clear that COVID-19 was going to complicate things, Kiffin’s big day was pushed to 2021. It made sense, of course, given the protocols in place last year and the fact that a man who gave 13 years to the organization deserved to be celebrated in front of a packed stadium.
With full-capacity crowds back in play this fall, we aren’t far off from knowing the date of Kiffin’s induction. Just last week, team COO Brian Ford said the date of the ceremony will be announced next month (h/t Greg Auman). At the same time, he confirmed that the 81-year-old will be the only inductee for 2021. So, rather than trying to project who else could join him as a second inductee in 2021 (still waiting on James Wilder’s day... maybe in 2022), we can take a stab at trying to figure out which game will feature Kiffin’s ceremony at halftime.
Early on, there wasn’t much of a discernable pattern with Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor ceremonies. From 2009 through 2012, the games fell on Sundays against the Packers, Falcons, Panthers and Chiefs, respectively. Warren Sapp got the primetime spotlight in 2013, with the Bucs hosting the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The next three were on Sundays again, with the opponents being the Rams, Panthers and Falcons.
The next four were primetime games, with John Lynch having his ceremony at halftime of a Thursday night game against the Falcons in 2016, Malcolm Glazer getting inducted on a Thursday night against the Patriots in October of 2017, Jon Gruden having his moment on a Monday night against the Falcons later that year and Tony Dungy receiving his honors on a Monday night against the Steelers in 2018. But then it was back to a Sunday in 2019 for Ronde Barber, who was honored at halftime of a game against the Giants.
So, as of late, the team has seemingly leaned on scheduling Ring of Honor ceremonies for primetime games, though that doesn’t seem like a set rule. We’ll keep that tendency in mind as we’re trying to figure out Kiffin’s date, but let’s also point out that there have been some special circumstances involved with recent inductees. In 2018, Dungy’s induction was extra special because the Bucs were playing the Steelers, a team he both played and coached for. Then, in 2019, the Bucs played the Giants on Ronde Barber’s big day. His twin brother, Tiki, of course played for New York and was there to broadcast the game with FOX.
So, how will the organization decide which game to use for Kiffin’s ceremony in 2021?
First, let’s take a look at the primetime home games on Tampa Bay’s schedule. There’s the Thursday Night Football opener against the Cowboys, but with that being the opener, we’ll presumably see some kind of Super Bowl celebration that night, with a banner or signage going up in front of the home fans. So, we can probably rule that game out. The Monday Night Football game against the Giants on Nov. 22 could be a good possibility, as could the Sunday Night Football matchup with the Saints on Dec. 19.
If we’re looking at teams that the former defensive coordinator has ties to, we have the Packers, Bills, Vikings, Jets, Saints, Cowboys and Jaguars. Of those teams, the only ones that the Bucs play at home in 2021 are the Cowboys, Saints and Bills. Again, we can probably rule out the Cowboys. That Saints game pops up again, and now we’re also looking at the Sunday afternoon contest with Buffalo on Dec. 12. But does Kiffin serving as the Bills’ coordinator for a couple of years in the 1980s warrant that game being the pick?
So, based on past criteria, a few options include:
Monday, Nov. 22: vs. New York Giants (Monday Night Football)
Sunday, Dec. 12: vs. Buffalo Bills
Sunday, Dec. 19: vs. New Orleans Saints (Sunday Night Football)
Those three are decent possibilities, but there’s another element to consider, and that’s the Ole Miss football schedule. Kiffin’s son, Lane, is the head coach of the Rebels and Kiffin himself is a player personnel analyst on his son’s staff. With that in mind—and assuming Lane will want to be able to attend—the Giants game is likely off the table, especially considering the Egg Bowl matchup between Ole Miss and Mississippi State is just three days later.
The bye week for Ole Miss comes during a week that Tampa Bay is on the road, so that doesn’t help matters. So really, if the Bucs want to work around the Rebels’ schedule, it feels like a Sunday afternoon game may make things easiest on the Kiffins. A quick flight from Mississippi to Tampa on a Saturday night or Sunday morning and then a return flight on Sunday night would presumably work. So, that opens up even more possibilities.
Tampa Bay’s Week 2 game against the Falcons kicks off at 4:05 p.m. and comes the day after a 7:30 p.m. kick for Ole Miss. That feels like it could work. The Oct. 10 game against the Dolphins is a 1:00 p.m. kickoff and it comes the day after an Ole Miss home game against Arkansas, with the kickoff time not yet announced. Then again, if we go beyond the Ole Miss regular season schedule, those Bills and Saints games re-enter the conversation.
So, while none of this is scientific or even completely logical, we have induction day narrowed down to the following possibilities now:
Sunday, Sept. 19: vs. Atlanta Falcons (4:05 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 10: vs. Miami Dolphins (1:00 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 12: vs. Buffalo Bills (4:25 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 19: vs. New Orleans Saints (Sunday Night Football)
If I had to make my best guess, I’m leaning toward that Buffalo game on the second Sunday in December. It’s a big game between two top teams in the league, Kiffin has ties to the Bills thanks to his time with them in the 1980s and it comes in the December sweet spot between the end of the college football regular season and bowl season. Even if Ole Miss puts together a miraculous season and goes to the SEC Championship Game, that would be the weekend before Dec. 12. The one issue that does make me wonder if that game works for the Kiffins is the fact that it comes three days before National Signing Day. But we’ll stick with the Bills game as my prediction anyway.
Now, it’s time for your prediction. Which game do you think will be chosen as the one for Monte Kiffin’s Ring of Honor induction ceremony? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll and discussing your thoughts in the comments down below.
When will Monte Kiffin’s Ring of Honor ceremony be?
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Sunday, Sept. 19: vs. Atlanta
Sunday, Oct. 10: vs. Miami
Sunday, Dec. 12: vs. Buffalo
Sunday, Dec. 19: vs. New Orleans (SNF)