Work in Sports
Les is more in Tampa
Bucs hire Titans coordinator Steckel to run offense
Posted: Sunday February 20, 2000 09:53 PM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are changing offenses, but not philosophies.
Coach Tony Dungy still wants a run-oriented, ball-control attack and made former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel the surprise choice Sunday night to install a system that could wind up reminding fans a lot of the one the Bucs are dropping.
"We know how to throw the football," said Steckel, the one-time coach of the Minnesota Vikings who spent the past five seasons an assistant with the Oilers and Titans.
"But I believe also that we're confident in knowing the common denominator of football is it's a tough, physical game. We're going to make sure we continue to do just that."
Indianapolis quarterbacks coach Bruce Arians, who has played a major role in the development of Peyton Manning, had been believed to be the frontrunner to succeed Mike Shula, who was fired as offensive coordinator after the Bucs failed to score a touchdown in an 11-6 loss to the St. Louis in the NFC championship game.
Steckel, 53, emerged as a candidate late in the search, interviewing after Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy talked to Arians, Denver Broncos receivers coach Mike Heimerdinger, Carolina running backs coach Chick Harris and Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen about the job.
"It took a while, but we wanted to make sure we got the right person," Dungy said, adding that he and Steckel think alike on and off the field, though they've never worked with one another.
"We do have a lot of the same philosophies," the coach said, adding that he was also attracted to Steckel's track record of working with young quarterbacks.
Steckel was the Oilers' offensive coordinator the past three seasons and helped Tennessee reach the Super Bowl with an offensive style much like the run-oriented Bucs used under Shula.
But while Tampa Bay ranked 30th in passing and 28th overall, Steckel's offense finished 13th and averaged 4.7 yards per carry rushing. The Titans averaged 24.5 points -- up from 20.6 the year before -- en route to compiling a 13-3 regular-season record.
"It's not about statistics, it's not about style. It's about winning," Dungy said. "If you look at his track record, the places he's been they've taken care of the ball and been very efficient."
The Bucs failed to score an offensive touchdown in five games last season, including the NFC title game in which the Rams scored a late touchdown to advance to the Super Bowl, where St. Louis defeated Tennessee 23-16.
Tampa Bay didn't have a 1,000-yard runner or receiver in 1999, however Steckel inherits plenty of talent to work with.
Quarterback Shaun King was 5-2 as a starter after replacing the injured Trent Dilfer in November. Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott give the Bucs the potential to have one of the league's better running attacks.
"He will do it his way," Dungy said of how much input Steckel will have in changing the offense. "You can win any way -- running the ball, throwing the ball ... The important thing is everybody has to believe in what you're doing."
Steckel, then 37, followed Bud Grant as coach of the Vikings in 1984 and compiled a 3-13 record in his only season as a head coach. During 17 seasons as a pro assistant, he has worked for the 49ers, Vikings, Patriots, Broncos and Oilers/Titans, who hired him as receivers coach in 1995.