Hired by the Buccaneers at the end of last week, Mike Sullivan held his introductory press conference yesterday in Tampa as the team's newest offensive coordinator. The longtime assistant of Tom Coughlin expressed his deep gratitude to his former team, which according to league rules, could have blocked the move.
"I'm extremely grateful and will forever remember the fact that Coach Coughlin was the one who gave me an opportunity at Jacksonville," Sullivan began after acknowledging his family and then his current and former ownership. "He gave me a chance to come up to New York and coach receivers. He gave me a chance to coach the quarterbacks. I'm forever going to be in debt to he and (general manager) Jerry Reese for allowing me to pursue this incredible opportunity."
Sullivan's first NFL gig was during Coughlin's final season in Jacksonville in 2002. He then reunited with the head coach in 2004 with the New York Giants for six seasons coaching wide receivers and then the last two as the quarterbacks coach.
Together, they won two Super Bowls.
With that success, Sullivan said Coughlin naturally was "hesitant," but that made him feel appreciated.
"I think it's a testament to his character and his loyalty that ultimately he decided to support me and to allow this to happen and realizing that, as he's often said to the team, when one gets to the top of the mountain, you realize there's still one more mountain to climb," Sullivan said. "I'm very appreciative and grateful and always will be for his support. Those were difficult conversations. There's a great amount of loyalty that I have and always will have, but at this point, he's the opponent and he's trying to get his team ready to go. And I'm a Buccaneer and proud and fired up to be here."
On a yet-to-be-determined date, New York is slated to host Tampa Bay in the 2012 season.
Sullivan now joins first-year head coach Greg Schiano, who left Rutgers for the opportunity to lead the Bucs.
"To be quite honest with you, the difficulties that he felt he had in leaving so many special people at Rutgers, I felt very similar emotions, if you will," Sullivan said. "I think that when looking at what he was able to accomplish and how his focus and what his approach is going to be, the type of commitment that he wants to make as he's described as the Buccaneer way was something I was very, very attracted to and instantly drawn to."
Sullivan once again thanked the staff that gave him an opportunity to grow into his current position.
"Spending eight years with two of the best offensive minds in the game – Coach Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride – and the amount of time and the thoroughness of the preparation and having the opportunities to not just be someone that sat behind the desk and took notes," he continued. "But through time, particularly through '05 and '06 and on to these past two Super Bowls, being fortunate enough to have the ability to have a say, to provide input, to be a part of the game plan process. And, again, that's a credit and another chance for me to thank both coach Coughlin once more and Kevin Gilbride for them allowing me to grow and have that opportunity to play an integral role in that aspect."
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