"In the 1999 season the sportswriters started to use the word 'Tampa 2,' talking about the Bucs defense as if had introduced something radically new. The funny thing was, our defensive strategy was merely a blending of a couple of concepts that had been around since my days with the 1977 Steelers.
"Most teams, at time, play some form of what's called the 'Cover 2' defense, in which their players are responsible for covering receivers who enter their 'zones.' This is contrasted with a man-to-man defense, in which each player covers one particular person no matter where he goes on the field. Also, most defenses favor a '3 Deep' concept, in which the free safety and two cornerbacks protect the deep zones, the parts of the field farthest away from the line of scrimmage. 'Cover 2' has two safeties playing deep and the cornerbacks and linebackers covering the short zones. Many coaches think this makes 'Cover 2' more vulnerable to deep passes, but that's not necessarily the case.
"We actually began to formulate this system back in 1992, when I joined Monte Kiffen in Minnesota. Monte was coaching the inside linebackers when I arrived, and the Vikings defensive scheme was to rush the passer and have their secondary in man-to-man coverage. Ever since my days in Pittsburgh, I had always favored zone coverage and I began to introduce those concepts. Monte, in turn, taught me about the 'One Gap' style the Vikings used with their linemen and linebackers. Most teams asked their defensive linemen to protect two gaps, playing head up on the defensive linemen, stalemating him, and then being able to tackle the ball carrier on either side of that lineman. The Vikings only asked their linemen to handle one one side of the offensive linemen, using the linebackers and safeties to compensate. Because they never has to take on a man directly, Minnesota's linemen did have to be as big, and though they were generally smaller than the men on the other side of the ball, they were quicker, and they were exceptional pass rushers.
"I inherited the perfect group of guys in Minnesota to blends Monte's run defense with my coverage ideas. We had a tremendous defensive line -- John Randle, Chris Doleman, Henry Thomas, and Al Noga -- alone with a veteran group of linebackers and defensive backs. We played well enough to lead the league in defense in 1993. although not many people noticed because we didn't have a lot of success in the playoffs.
"While most people saw the 'Cover 2' as a critical piece of the defense we put together in Tampa, it really wasn't. We believe it was not our formation that made us good but how we played. We emphasized fundamental concepts, not making mistakes, and above all eleven guys playing as fast and hard as they could on every play.
"The defensive line was critical to the success of our scheme. John Teerlinck was our line coach in Minnesota, and I saw how important he was in setting the tempo necessary for our undersized players to succeed.