TAMPA, Fla. -- Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect to have Monte Kiffin drawing up defensive game plans for the rest of the season, his future with the NFC South co-leaders remains unclear.
Neither Kiffin nor the Bucs have done anything to end speculation that the 68-year-old defensive coordinator has decided to leave the NFL to work for his son, Lane, the new coach at the University of Tennessee.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said Monday he knows how the situation will play out, but would not disclose whether Kiffin is staying or will give up a $2 million salary that makes him one of the highest-paid defensive assistants in the league.
"This really has been addressed some time ago with Monte. We feel very comfortable that we know what's taking place," Allen said. "We'll let Monte make any comments he wants to make and respect his views when he does."
Coach Jon Gruden said either way, Kiffin will be with Tampa Bay at least through the end of the season.
Kiffin was unavailable for comment. After the Bucs (9-3) intercepted Drew Brees three times and slowed down the NFL's top-ranked offense during a 23-20 victory over New Orleans on Sunday, he dismissed reports he intends to leave as "just speculation."
Under Kiffin's leadership, Tampa Bay's defense has allowed the fewest points in the NFL since 1997 and ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed 10 of the last 11 seasons, including nine straight from 1997-2005.
Gruden said he doesn't expect questions about Kiffin's future to affect the focus of the players as the team tries to repeat as NFC South champions.
"A lot of our coaches are sought-after every year and Monte's sought-after every year. He should be," Gruden said. "But I'm not worried about any distractions. We've got a great opportunity ahead of us, and we want to take advantage of it."
Allen said there have been discussions before about the possibility of Kiffin leaving Tampa Bay to join his son. There was also dialogue when Lane became head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and prior to that when he was considering a job at the University of Minnesota.
Lane Kiffin said at his news conference in Knoxville:
"I'm not talking about any names today on the staff due to respect of the contracts those guys may be under. When it's all said and done, you'll be extremely happy about the staff that comes here."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press