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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wannstedt’s resume boosts relatively young Bucs staff

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Published:   |   Updated: August 6, 2013 at 06:50 AM

TAMPA — Dave Wannstedt’s influence extends well past his job description.

A former head coach with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins, Wannstedt was hired by coach Greg Schiano in February to energize the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ nondescript special teams.

But at age 61, Wannstedt boasts a varied background that makes him invaluable on several levels to Schiano, who hired Butch Davis as a team adviser shortly after being hired as Tampa Bay’s coach 18 months ago.

“You’ve got a head coach basically coaching special teams,’’ veteran left tackle Donald Penn said today. “You can’t ask for more than that. I really think he helps us beyond special teams. He gets those guys fired up and he’s a good voice to have behind closed doors. Look at his experience, it speaks for itself.’’

Schiano and Wannstedt share some history.

A few years after replacing Mike Ditka as coach of the Bears in 1993, Wannstedt gave Schiano his first job in the NFL, naming him a defensive assistant and, a few years later, Chicago’s secondary coach.

Schiano began an 11-year coaching career at Rutgers in 2000, going 4-2 against Wannstedt, who coached at Pittsburgh from 2005-10.

“I obviously have a relationship with Greg and I’ve followed him real closely,’’ said Wannstedt, who served as defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills last season. “When a position became available in Tampa, we talked. We have the same beliefs. If you can bounce some things off someone who’s been there and has no motives other than helping you and the Bucs, I think it’s a good situation.’’

Although Wannstedt was involved in coaching special teams at Pittsburgh, he has never coached the unit on the pro level.

“It’s been great to have a guy with the knowledge he’s gained over the years,’’ said Bucs long snapper Andrew Economos. “He’s got good stories, helpful tips. Coach Wannstedt is very straightforward. His attitude is, ‘Here’s what you need to do, so do it.’ He lets us do our job and you know exactly what’s expected with a man like him.’’

Like Davis, Wannstedt serves as a key counselor for Schiano and a large, relatively young staff.

“To get a guy like Dave Wannstedt to be our special teams coordinator, with all the experience he brings, is big,’’ Schiano said. “He’s a guy I really trust and a guy that I worked for and worked with.’’

Linebacker Adam Hayward, a pillar of Tampa Bay’s special teams for six seasons, can’t believe Schiano landed an assistant of Wannstedt’s caliber.

“Coach Wannstedt was a great addition,’’ Hayward said. “He definitely knows what he’s talking about. He’s been around, he’s been on teams (Cowboys) that have won a Super Bowl. When he talks, everyone listens and the best thing is he lets everyone play — not a lot of rules.

“You have a general understanding of what’s going on, but the message from him is simple: play football. He came from an era when you ran down the field and hit somebody. We’ve got the techniques down ... now, it’s just all-out play.’’

Wannstedt was impressed with Schiano’s attention to detail and football IQ from the start in Chicago. When Davis, coaching at the University of Miami, told Wannstedt he was seeking a defensive coordinator in 1998, he was told to look no further.

“I said, ‘I’ve got the guy right here,’’’ Wannstedt recalled. “In Chicago, it didn’t take long before the players realized this guy Greg Schiano knows what he’s doing. Here in Tampa, Greg’s done a great job of putting this staff together. He’s got coaches who have been to the Super Bowl and a nice mix of young guys who have been with him and know his philosophy. He doesn’t have a staff of yes men.’’

Speedy second-year running back Michael Smith, hoping to win a job as Tampa Bay’s primary kick returner, learns something new from Wannstedt every day.

“He’s got a lot of experience — and that’s a big plus,’’ Smith said. “He’s very energetic, very positive. I know Coach Wannstedt has helped me a lot and I’m soaking it all in like a sponge. Why not? The man’s been everywhere.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

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