Derrick Brooks Talks “D” Turnaround

August 14th, 2017


Derrick Brooks wrestled with mixed feelings when Mike Smith went job hunting last January.

Brooks knows an outstanding coach when he sees one, and he admired Smith from afar until 2016, when he saw the Bucs make dramatic strides on defense under their new coordinator.

Smith was hoping an impressive second-half turnaround would catapult him back into the head coaching ranks, but it didn’t happen, despite interviews with the Jaguars and the Chargers.

“I thought Mike Smith would be a head coach again in 2017,” Brooks said, “and in my mind he deserved it. But for him to come back here as defensive coordinator is a critical point for this team to build on. In my mind, it’s the key move of the offseason for this franchise.”

Brooks knows the advantages of continuity in the coordinator ranks.

From 1996, his second year in the NFL, through to his final season in 2008, Brooks thrived in Monte Kiffin’s system. That’s 13 years of uninterrupted coordination between a Hall of Fame linebacker and the man who constructed a scheme based in large part around Brooks’ unique skills.

That partnership almost dissolved following the Super Bowl season because the 49ers were interested in Kiffin after firing head coach Steve Mariucci. When San Francisco hired Dennis Erickson instead and Kiffin returned to One Buc Place in 2003, Brooks and Jon Gruden were elated.

“I wished the best for Coach Smith in January, but now the Bucs don’t have to change coordinators or schemes — and they’ve got a majority of their defensive players back,” Brooks said. “More importantly, Coach Smith has his staff back.”

Proper Representation

Smith’s first season with the Bucs had the look of a disaster until the bye week. The low point came on the evening of Nov. 3, when John Lynch entered the Ring of Honor.

With Lynch, Brooks and Warren Sapp looking on in disbelieving fashion, the Falcons jumped out to a 40-14 lead before finishing up a 43-28 beatdown.

The Falcons posted 31 first downs and generated 461 yards. Zero punts. Three Buc icons couldn’t bear to look at the replay board.

“Yes, I questioned the effort after the Atlanta game,” Brooks said. “I called a few of my close friends on the team and said guys, there’s no way a Falcon should catch a pass on third-and-10 and gain 20 yards. We’re better than that. And I love Devonta Freeman — he’s a Seminole — but that’s not the defense you want to represent this town.”

Tampa Bay’s defense was markedly better across the board after the bye week, but Brooks isn’t a stat freak. He looks at points allowed and takeaways — and the 2016 Bucs excelled in those areas during a five-game winning streak that briefly vaulted the team into control of its playoff destiny.

Lasting Bonds

Brooks has long been a fan of Lavonte David, and that’s understandable. The Tampa 2 may no longer be a staple on fall Sundays at Raymond James Stadium, but David has excelled at the weakside spot Brooks defined for 14 seasons.

And in only two years, fiery middle linebacker Kwon Alexander has emerged as the defensive face of the franchise.

Brooks admires his profile.

“Right now, this young man deserves to be in some conversations,” Brooks said. “I especially like the duo of Kwon and Lavonte. I see that being a strong point of this defense, the way those two play together.”

Tampa Bay’s first-string defense looked stout at Cincinnati in the preseason opener. Alexander was flying around and closing quickly with five tackles, while David excelled as usual in coverage.

David received his contract extension two years ago and there’s no doubt Alexander is also considered a core player. They could be operating side-by-side for quite a while, with Smith calling the defensive signals.

That’s called continuity, a lasting bond between the talent and the man molding that talent. It all worked out so well for this franchise once upon a time, very long ago.

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

18 Responses to “Derrick Brooks Talks “D” Turnaround”

  1. stu Says:

    Sorry Irv, I disagree with your take:

    Tampa Bay’s first-string defense looked stout at Cincinnati in the preseason opener.

  2. DB55 Says:

    A very long time ago indeed! And Kwon can’t be making every tackle, come on. He saved what looked like a break-away TD by Hill early in the game. Can’t have RBs rushing through the line unmolested. And is it me or does it seem like teams favor running to one particular side of the dline? It’s like run the ball to whatever side McCoy is defending. Oops 🙊 I did it again.

    Joe you saw the game tape, tell me I’m wrong!

  3. '74 Bucs Fan Says:

    If anything, the pass rush was weak, if not non-existent. Our D Line was getting pushed around. Let’s hope that changes quickly!

  4. RayJameisStadium Says:

    DB55 come’on!!!!

    McCoy has achy knees. Give the guy an ice cream break. Are you trying to make him a Super Hero or something?!?!? Come’on!!!

  5. johnnybuc Says:

    defense looked far from stout actually but i believe that is to be expected for first preseason game

  6. 813bucboi Says:

    Tampa Bay’s first-string defense looked stout at Cincinnati in the preseason opener.

    nawl….we were getting gashed left and right….the only thing that made it feel better was VHG coming up with an int….if they had scored a TD some would be in full panic mode because it was ugly….GO BUCS!!!

  7. The Buc Realist Says:

    813bucboi is right!!!!! They were not winning their 1 on 1’s !!!!!!!! That is why the incompetent one is not here!!!!!! Coach Smitty scheme’s this defense to make it Good!!!!!!!! This is what it looks like when it is just vanilla!!!!!!!! Thank Goodness that the Bucs are blessed that Coach Smitty stayed!!!!!!!!! The Defense will carry this team until the offense gets its legs underneath them!!!!!!!!!

    GO Defense!!!!!!!

    And Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. SB Says:

    I can’t even use the words ‘run’ and ‘defense’ in the same sentence with what I saw the other night.

  9. Canadabucsfan Says:

    I have watched VHG111 pick a few times and I am so impressed with the angle and how he reached and caught that by the fingertips. Sign of great things to come. Really awesome to see that because it will make the OC elsewhere not attack his side 80% of the time. Great year ahead I think for the outside corners.

  10. Lord Cornelius Says:

    agree with Realist.

    In general it’s rare any defense will go vanilla and be effective depending on what the offense is trying to do. I also doubt all the vet D-lineman on this team who are 28-30 feel a need to go all out in a preseason game (other than maybe Clinton McDonald).

    Seattle’s 1st team defense got ripped up by the Chargers on their opening drive. I doubt anyone is thinking they’re going to be a terrible defense this year.

    There really is so only so much you can get out of preseason evaluation. More often than not you’re going to over analyze. I like it for checking out the young guys movement on the field for the most part; and how the O-line holds up moreso than even the D-line.

    McNichols looked very smooth in his only play at least. Howard was a beast blocking. Evans tackling was pretty terrible but he does look like quite an athlete. Godwin was running smooth routes whenever I watched him but just had the one target basically. Didn’t really notice the DT we drafted in R7. Beckwith looked big but rusty. VHIII looks like a man on a mission this year

  11. bucsfaninchina Says:

    David got burnt a couple times in coverage. A certain pass to LaFell out of the slot comes to mind. Kwon is the superstar here and Lavonte clearly looks like second fiddle

  12. Skipper Says:

    Not sure if Ira and I watched the same game. With the exception of VH3’s interception the starting defense was horrible.

  13. The Buc Realist Says:

    @Lord Corn

    and don’t forget Conte!!!!! he bites so hard on a play-action!!!!!!! He really messed up when he had underneath coverage!!!!!!!!!

  14. Pickgrin Says:

    Lord C says:
    “McNichols looked very smooth in his only play at least. Howard was a beast blocking. Evans tackling was pretty terrible but he does look like quite an athlete. Godwin was running smooth routes whenever I watched him but just had the one target basically. Didn’t really notice the DT we drafted in R7. Beckwith looked big but rusty. VHIII looks like a man on a mission this year”

    Good takes. I agree with all of them.

    Maybe the reason you “didn’t notice” Stevie T. was because he didn’t play well. I saw him get moved off his spot too easily vs the run on a few plays.

    Its a long ways from living in a van down by the river in SoCal to succeeding in the NFL . Stevie’s got some serious improving to do if he wants to make this team.

  15. Rod Munch Says:

    I hope Mike Smith actually begins to understand the special talent he has in David and starts using him as a special talent. Sure he is very valuable in pass coverage but the guy is an elite pass rusher on a team with no elite edge talent. Late in the year Smith finally started to figure out David can do more than just cover the TE – a lot more – and hopefully he’ll let him run free. While I hate the Jersey Trash ™ Schiano he did show all future coaches how to use David – and why they haven’t done so, I’ll never know, it really seems like his unique talent set is going to waste.

  16. Bucsfanman Says:

    I saw Cincy’s RBs gashing our defense, that’s what I saw. I’ll double-down on Pickgrin/Lord C/Realist etc….
    You couldn’t help but notice when Stevie T was in, he’s HUGE! That’s about it though. I saw a lot of chasing from our LBs. That’s never a good sign!
    It’s preseason though. Gotta temper the expectations.

  17. Buc4Lyfe79 Says:

    “Irv” must’ve written the line about the first string defense looking stout against Cincy, other than VH3 that is. Ira’s got eyes and wouldn’t have written that.

  18. destinjohnny Says:

    55 would be a better GM then Jason.