Duffner’s Football Roots

October 18th, 2018

Woody Hayes.

New Bucs defensive coordinator Mark Duffner has coached for dang near a Who’s Who of coaches.

And if you peel back the onion skins, at his core, Duffner is a proud disciple of the iconic former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes.

Today, Hayes is sort of thought of as a cartoon character. He was irascible on the sidelines, belting cameramen, tearing apart down markers and, yes, punching an opposing linebacker, which got him fired.

Hayes also preferred to wear only a short-sleeve shirt and a tie while coaching. If it got too bitterly cold, he might break down and wear a windbreaker.

Those and many other incidents (think of a football version of Bobby Knight) cloud what a giant of the game Hayes was in his day, sort of a Bear Bryant of the North.

Hayes’ players worshipped him and legend has it he never talked football when recruiting a player, only talked about how special an education was from Ohio State and what a degree would do for them and their future families.

Duffner, upon graduating William and Mary in 1975, wanted to coach. So he mailed 100 letters and resumes across the country. Duffner recounted this yesterday at his first press conference as Bucs defensive coordinator. Duffner said he received 96 letters telling him basically, thanks but no thanks. Of the four letters inviting him to interview as a grad assistant, one was from Hayes and the interview took place on March 17, 1975.

Duffner, who was recruited to William and Mary by then-coach Lou Holtz, may have had an “in” with Hayes as Holtz was once an assistant with Hayes at Ohio State (Holtz also offered Duffner a job at North Carolina State).

“I have learned a lot from a lot of coaches,” Duffner said. “I have been blessed from the very beginning being with Woody Hayes and having a chance to learn from him as a 21-year old, wet-behind-the-ears coach.”

Listening to Duffner at times, you can almost hear Hayes speak. Hayes was notorious for being anti-pass saying, “Only three things can happen with a pass and two of them are bad.”

Duffner said stopping the run is a core value of his. “I still believe that it starts with stopping the run so that you try to get them off track.”

And in another page out of Hayes’ handbook, Duffner talked about his tight relationship with players, something Hayes was known for.

“I spend time with players, I believe in that,” Duffner said. “The more you know the players and the more they know you… I think you miss the boat if you don’t know your players, as a team, both offensively and defensively. I believe that is how you can impact the team as people. That’s an objective I have.

“Anything you’re involved with, I think it’s all much better for everybody involved if you show you care. If your players know that you care about them, I think they’re going to respond in a positive way. They know if it’s genuine or not.

“I love what I’m doing. You get a chance to see people in a lot of different scenarios where you can assist them in terms of whether it’s off the field or on the field in terms of interaction with them and really getting to know them. How lucky have I been? Geez. It’s been unbelievable.”

Joe counted at least three times during Duffner’s presser he referenced Hayes.

So if Bucs fans want to know what Duffner is like, Joe points to the coaching attributes of Hayes, not the cartoonish theatrics Hayes is remembered for some 40 years after he last stomped along a sideline.

18 Responses to “Duffner’s Football Roots”

  1. Season Is Over Says:

    Even he admits this level of ineptitude was a team effort. He needs to hold the players accountable. Sit complacent starters. Poke the nest. Losing is an archetypal image to this team. How long does that take to fix?

  2. lambchop Says:

    Even if Duffner can’t rally the troops to salvage the season, I’m looking hard at what he brings to the defense as far as accountability and foundational improvement from the players (no more miscommunication and being out of sorts). Let’s see what he can do with the secondary and hope for the best.

    I’m just glad someone at One Buc had a pulse and decided a change was needed. This shows commitment at least from ownership/gm. If Duffner doesn’t work out, at least we know there will be a new DC by the off-season. There are plenty of good candidates.

  3. __TGH__ Says:

    Thanks Joe

  4. Pryda...sec 147 Says:

    But is Noah Spence going to play on Sunday ?

  5. Tampaspicer Says:

    Why would Noah play on Sunday? He’s lucky to be on the team based on his preseason play.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    Nice background article on Mark Duffner Joe. Actually reminded me a lot of Gene Stallings, one of the original ‘Junction Boys’ under Bear Bryant when the Bear coached at Texas A&M. Stallings became an assistant coach under the Bear starting in 1961, put together a fascinating coaching career, then was Bama HC from 1990-1996. Helped Bama through some tough times during that period.

    Old-time coaches like Stallings & Duffner (and yes, Mike Smith) ‘are who they are’ … you don’t survive as long as they have without learning something from the mentors they’ve had all those years.

    @Season Is Over … “Level of ineptitude was a team effort”. Classic line right there. So many ‘fans’ point to Mr Softie as being the problem; the common denominator in the Bucs seemingly endless losing seasons for this past decade. But you hit the nail on the head: Losing is a TEAM EFFORT, just like winning is. And your other point was equally as valid … that coaches “need to hold the players accountable”. The level of effort that I saw in Chicago & again last Sunday against the Falcons was unacceptable, and that’s the kiss of death for any defense. Or offense.

    I personally don’t believe that the TALENT on this defense is anywhere close to what many others seem to believe. Too many over-rated players who are either too slow, or not strong enough or not mentally tough enough. But I am convinced that they can play much better than what we’ve seen lately. Hopefully Mark Duffner can get them doing that.

  7. richbucsfan Says:

    Just win, baby

  8. onetrickpony Says:

    yada yada yada……………………show me instead

  9. Buc believer Says:

    That’s nice…. But will gramps motivate and inspire today’s urban hip hop youth to be all they can be??? Doubt it but I hope I’m wrong. ABS!!! (Anyone but Smith)

  10. Resurrection of Duff Says:

    Good job Joe.

  11. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I read that Mark Duffner wanted to be a Priest, at one time.

  12. buc15 Says:

    so he thinks ita most important to stop the run in the modern pass heavy nfl? I dont get the warm fuzzies but hope I am wrong

  13. AtlBuc Says:

    This stop the run thing sounds a lot like the old school mentality that gets your brains beat out on Sundays.

  14. BringBucsBack Says:

    I will certainly give Duff a chance but, I expect that his approach will be much more contemporary.

    As I see it, from a defense of standpoint, only three things happen when your DBs play 10 yards off the ball and only one of them are good!

  15. BringBucsBack Says:


  16. i like gunslingers Says:

    yeah if things do not get better, i would expect more than duff, smith, koetter to be gone, also spence will be on next season opener of dancing with the stars, where he has a legitimate shot at beating his opponent

  17. Ludicrous Speed Says:

    You’ve got to ask yourself one question…

    Are you ready to get Duffed?

    Ohh Yeahhh Duffman

  18. Eric Says:

    nice one gunslinger.