Monte Kiffin

Monte Kiffin
Candid chest-up photograph of Kiffin
Jacksonville Jaguars
Position: Defensive assistant
Personal information
Date of birth: (1940-02-29) February 29, 1940
Place of birth: Lexington, Nebraska
Career information
High school: Lexington (NE)
College: Nebraska
Undrafted: 1964
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season: NCAA: 16–17 (.485)
Coaching stats at PFR

Monte Kiffin (born February 29, 1940) is an American football coach, currently serving as the assistant head coach of defense for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL). He is widely considered to be one of the preeminent defensive coordinators in modern football, as well as one of the greatest defensive coordinators in NFL history.[1] Father of the widely imitated “Tampa Cover 2” defense, Kiffin's concepts are among the most influential in modern college and pro football.[2]

Before taking the role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, Kiffin served as assistant head coach for the University of Southern California where his son Lane Kiffin was named head coach on January 12, 2010, and before that he served under his son as the defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee.[3] Possibly due to the mounting pressure on his son's poor coaching records, on November 29, 2012, Kiffin resigned from his position to pursue other opportunities in the NFL.[4] He previously served 26 years as an NFL assistant coach, including 13 years as defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he won Super Bowl XXXVII. His defensive units have finished ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yards allowed 10 times during that period, an NFL record.[5]

Kiffin was paid about $1.2 million per year by Tennessee,[6] which made him the highest paid assistant coach in college football. He earned a reported $2 million annual salary from the Buccaneers[6] and has turned down several NFL head coaching jobs during his career.[1] To this day, Kiffin's only head coaching job was at North Carolina State University from 1980 to 1982.


A native of Lexington, Nebraska, Kiffin was an offensive and defensive tackle at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln from 1959 to 1963. In 1966 he played 8 games with the Toronto Rifles of the Continental Football League and also was a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the same league. After a brief stint as a defensive end for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Kiffin returned to Nebraska as a defensive coach. Kiffin was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska under legendary coach, Bob Devaney. He coached the defenses of Nebraska's 1970 and 1971 back-to-back undefeated national champion teams. After then offensive coordinator Tom Osborne was selected as the head coach in 1973, Monte stayed as the defensive coordinator for four years. In 1977, he moved to the University of Arkansas, and then in 1980, he got his one and only head coaching job at North Carolina State University.

Kiffin then began a series of short stints in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings (twice), New York Jets, and New Orleans Saints. In 1996, he became the defensive coordinator for the Bucs.[7]

After Tony Dungy was dismissed by the Buccaneer front office following the 2001 season, Kiffin was persuaded by incoming head coach Jon Gruden to remain in Tampa and continue to run his defense. Kiffin had been interviewed for a head coaching position with the San Francisco 49ers. With the seamless transition on defense allowing the new coaching staff to focus intently on a more potent offensive philosophy, the result was an immediate balance between offense and defense that carried the Buccaneers to the organization's first championship in Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003 in San Diego, California.

Controversy has surrounded Kiffin's departure from Tampa Bay. After Lane Kiffin signed with Tennessee, Tampa's typically stout defense underperformed. The Bucs lost their final four games of the 2008 season, ending up 9–7, and missed the playoffs. Reports stated that Gruden refused to allow Kiffin to announce his departure to Tennessee mid-season. Allegations were made that Kiffin refused to participate in normal coaching meetings. Neither Kiffin nor Jon Gruden have openly discussed these events.

Monte joined the University of Southern California coaching staff as defensive coordinator, after his son Lane Kiffin became the head coach.[8]

On January 11, 2013, following the 2012-13 NFL regular season, Kiffin was hired as Defensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.[9] Kiffin was demoted on January 28, 2014 in favor of defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. At the end of the 2014 season Kiffin's contract was allowed to lapse, and it was not renewed by the Cowboys.[10]

Kiffin joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as a defensive assistant in March 2016.[11]

Defensive philosophy

Monte Kiffin is the mastermind behind the Tampa 2 scheme, which is a slight modification of Tony Dungy's Cover 2. His defensive philosophy has several hallmarks.

Personal life

Kiffin's sons are both football coaches. Elder son, Lane Kiffin, played football at Fresno State before entering coaching: becoming the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers, and USC Trojans, and is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Younger son, Chris Kiffin, played football for Colorado State and is now the defensive line coach for Ole Miss, having followed head coach Hugh Freeze from Arkansas State.[12]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
NC State Wolfpack (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1980–1982)
1980 NC State 6–5 3–3 3rd
1981 NC State 4–7 2–4 5th
1982 NC State 6–5 3–3 T–3rd
NC State: 16–17 8–10
Total: 16–17


  1. 1 2 Mullen, Bryan (2008-12-15). "Kiffin's dad enjoys sterling reputation". The Tennessean.
  2. Shelton, Gary (2008-12-28). "Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is worthy of fame". St. Petersburg Times.
  3. Kiffin named Vols coach after school's first national search
  4. Cummings, Roy (2008-12-14). "Kiffin Confirms He's Leaving Bucs For Tennessee". The Tampa Tribune.
  5. 1 2 New football staff costs UT more than $5.3M
  7. Evans, Thayer (2010-01-13). "USC Football: Kiffin, on the move, is a man of Troy". San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  8. Kavner, Rowan. "Monte Kiffin Officially Hired As Cowboys' D-Coordinator". Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  9. Orr, Conor (March 21, 2016). "Jaguars hire defensive coaching legend Monte Kiffin". Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  10. Chris Kiffin,, accessed January 22, 2013.

Further reading

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