Mile High View Of Jim Bates

November 1st, 2009
A Broncos beat writer, the esteemed Jeff Legwold, checks in with Joe talk about the downfall of Jim Bates as Denver's defensive coordinator in 2007

Esteemed Broncos beat writer Jeff Legwold checks in with Joe talk about the downfall of Jim Bates as Denver's defensive coordinator

[Editor’s note: Joe has gotten his share of e-mails about Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Clearly, he’s clearly becoming a polarizing figure among Bucs fans. Some say Bates has so little talent to work with he can’t fairly be judged. Others say it’s too soon to evaluate him. And others say Bates is proving to be incapable of making adjustments and failing miserably at adapting to the talent provided to him. 

Given the scrutiny on the Bucs defense, which has been torched in many ways this season, Joe thought it would be neat to dig up this Q & A from the archives. It’s a chat with former longtime Broncos beat writer Jeff Legwold, who covered Denver in 2007, when Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan turned over his defense to Bates but yanked it away from him halfway through the season.]

(Q&A initially published Feb. 17, 2009)

Joe sat down today with Broncos beat writer Jeff Legwold of the Rocky Mountain News to talk about the very brief Jim Bates era in Denver.

Bates, the Bucs new defensive coordinator, was hired to take Denver’s average defense to the next level in 2007. By midseason that year, Bates was almost completely phased out by Mike Shanahan. 

Joe wanted to know how an accomplished veteran coordinator like Bates failed so quickly in Denver.

Legwold (who in Joe’s opinion is the king of beat writers in Denver) kindly offered his take.

Joe: Did Mike Shanahan have a relationship with Bates prior to him becoming defensive coordinator?

Legwold: Mike didn’t really have any lineage with Bates like with [2008 Broncos D-Coordinator] Bob Slowik. He knew him from having been at the combine, and Jim’s reputation.

What kind of input and control regarding personnel was given to Bates? Was this his defense?

He had great input. Initally, he was given a lot of freedom. They switched to bigger [interior linemen] guys who could anchor, and supposedly stop the run and open things up for the guys on the edge. They signed and drafted guys they probably wouldn’t have signed otherwise in years past, guys like Sam Adams inside. …They opened the season with the biggest line they had in years.

Simeon Rice signed with Denver early in the 2007 season. Was that Bates’ call?

Simeon Rice was more Mike [Shanahan’s] call. He fit Jim’s scheme, guys up the middle who can anchor, and edge guys who could get upfield.

How did everything crumble for Bates? What went wrong?

Immediately they didn’t stop the run. I think Mike was really upset by that. …They simply couldn’t stop the run. That they were swithing schemes, it’s not surprising to me they weren’t successful quickly. ….. Then midway through the season came this thing where [Bates] and Bob Slowik were a hybrid where they were both calling the shots.

When you struggle early it’s hard for guys to buy into it. This was a team that had some expectations. They thought they would be better probably. The scheme was different from what they played, and I’m not sure the players ever knew what was going on on defense. …There was a lot of turnover that year. They were cutting guys, bringing guys in. …In mid-season, Slowik starting calling the shots. …You could see it on the field. Everything just looked different. …By the the end of the season [Bates] was just a participant. …Even Mike [Shanahan] was in the [defensive] gameplan at times. ….

Bates’ reaction?

Whatever Jim’s mindset was he kept it to himself. He was a professional. Mike had a dominating presence, you didn’t go public. …. After the season, Mike told him he could could coach linebackers, ‘but you’re not going to call plays.’ …That was the end for JIm.

Bates meets with the media tomorrow in Tampa. How do you think he will he describe his time in Denver?

I would be surprised if he says too much. Jim’s been around a long time, been in a lot of places. He might say he was disappointed. … He did not have a lot of time to work with and, like I said halfway through the first season they were changing the plan.

What’s Bates like on the practice field?

He’s an intense guy. He had a tough beginning, working his way up. I’ll say he’s real easy to find out there. … For those who know Rod Marinelli’s [intense] style, like that, although I don’t know if it will be to Marinelli’s level. …Jim spent a lot of time with the linebackers. It’s a position he’s coached a lot over the years and he’s very comfortable there.

2 Responses to “Mile High View Of Jim Bates”

  1. Gino Says:

    You know as easy as it is to pin the teams woes on this dude he has had past success–I can blame the total implosion that went down in Denver on him…and people who I know well and have dealt with him call him a class act.

    He makes no excuses-seems to accept blame–and lets be honest–his down linemen would be hard pressed to be 2nd string at pretty much any team in the NFL–one of his 3 starting linebackers in NFL material–Hayes and Black?? Special teams or maybe nickle/dime package guys anywhere else…and his secondary? Safeties are green and Jackson comes in cold missing 4 games–and sure missing the hard hitting and experienced Phillips—corners consist of a geezer and a gangster…what the hell he can’t put a helmet on himself can he??

    I mean the beef up front and the quick, experienced linebackers his system relies on–well not a single one of those types exists here-except maybe Miller the rookie. I guess you could fault him for accepting the job-but if he was told it would be a 2-3 year retooling project and if you realize the 4 starting defensive linemen are all 30 or close to that age you figure they will be a lot of change in that direction in the next year or two.

    Can’t fault the guy for the talent–or lack of talent–that’s been assembled for him–he didn’t sign ’em or let them get away.

  2. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Gino – I like your thinking but I respectfully disagree.

    A system is only as good as the pieces. I think we can both agree that the current players are NOT the pieces that Mr. Bates would claim are necessary in order to run his “system” to it’s utmost.

    Therefore a good coach does one of two things – either go out and get the right pieces or modify the system to utilize the players to the best of their ability.

    Well since the Bucs wasted their 1st two picks on offense (Freeman & Winslow) and they were inactive in free agency with regard to defense option 1 was out.

    Therefore I would expect bates to change and to utilize the curent players in such a manner that he could accomplish the job. i haven’t seen any adjustments on defense at all – sure the players aren’t the best but why not send Rhonde on more blitz’s like in years past?

    how many stunts have you seen the 4-d lineman do? Not many. The bucs should be doing more 1-gap schemes with these players not the 2-gap scheme because quite frankly these players are too small.

    I’m not as disappointed in Bates as I am in Raheem but then again this pirate ship is going down fast as the Titanic.

    Hey go Bucs you’re the only team in 2009 without a win!