If you want to know one of the best stories in the NFL this season, look no further than Tampa Bay, where Owatonna native and former Gophers and Vikings assistant coach Tom Moore is getting ready to coach in his 43rd NFL season as an offensive consultant to Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians.
Arians and Moore go way back to their days working under Tony Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts.
Moore was the offensive coordinator there from 1998 to 2008 and then served as the senior offensive coordinator from 2009 to ’10 after Dungy retired.
Arians was the quarterbacks coach for the Colts from 1998 to 2000 before taking over as the Browns offensive coordinator. He served as Colts offensive coordinator and interim head coach in 2012.
Arians got his first head coaching job with the Cardinals in 2013. He brought Moore along as an assistant head coach and offensive consultant and the two worked together there for five seasons until Arians was fired in 2018.
When Moore got fired by the Colts in 2010, Dungy was very upset, but he was thrilled when Arians hired Moore back in 2013.
And the fact is that now Moore — who helped build the offense that Peyton Manning mastered as Colts QB — will get to work with the other greatest quarterback of this generation in Tom Brady, who is in his first season in Tampa.
Excelled in 2019
Arians and Moore did great things last season, their first with the Buccaneers.
The team ranked third in the NFL in points per game and third in yards per game but went just 7-9 as the defense and turnover-prone quarterback Jameis Winston struggled.
Now the Buccaneers have added Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski to an offense that already features wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. They also brought in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and have two rookies off the Gophers in defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., drafted No. 45 overall in the second round, and wide receiver Tyler Johnson, drafted No. 161 overall in the fifth round.
The word out of Bucs camp is that Winfield could start in Week 1 at New Orleans.
The Bucs have the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl at 14-1, the third-best odds in the NFC behind the 49ers (9-1) and Saints (11-1), and that Week 1 matchup will be nationally televised on Fox.
The Vikings will travel to Tampa Bay on Dec. 13 for a Week 14 matchup.
Rosas backs Saunders
Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas told me that coach Ryan Saunders has his full support heading into next season as the Wolves start preparing to make the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Saunders went 19-45 in his first season as a head coach before the NBA shut down the regular season.
Rosas said Saunders is leading this team in the right direction both on the court and behind the scenes after the Tom Thibodeau regime.
“Ryan has been an unbelievable partner and unfortunately last year with all the changes, the installation of the system offensively and defensively, unfortunately we all didn’t have the record that we would have liked. But the things that aren’t on the boxscore, I felt like there was a lot of progress,” Rosas said. “We established our identity on offense, how we want to play, our perspective. We’re addressing some major needs and major strategy on the defensive end.
“Our culture, our environment, how we develop our players, how we treat our players, what we are as an organization on the court and off the court he had an incredible hand in. That’s going to allow us to have a foundation to have success long term because we’re doing the little things right.”
Right coach for Towns
Maybe the biggest thing for Saunders is his connection with big man Karl-Anthony Towns as the two have long had a close working relationship.
Last season, Towns struggled with injuries for the first time in his career but posted career highs with 26.5 points and 4.4 assists per game while still grabbing 10.8 rebounds.
“It was frustrating that Karl had the injuries that he had, because I really felt like Ryan was putting him in position to have the best year of his career, and if you project his stats over a full season, it would have been the best year of his career,” Rosas said. “I expect a lot of greatness from Karl and the impact that Coach has on Karl, and his ability to challenge him and to make him the best player he can be on both ends.
“Then you throw into the mix a guy like D’Angelo Russell and what that relationship is going to be like and the work that Coach and D’Angelo are doing now. And then our young core, whether it’s Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, that group and the work that they’re doing and Coach’s ability and Coach’s staff to bring those guys together, to me the future is very exciting.”
• Vikings safety Harrison Smith on new defensive backs coach Daronte Jones: “It has already been great, learning a lot from him. We have a young room, he’s very detail-oriented, which I think is going to be great for us, getting in the young guys and the guys that have been here, just refreshing and starting from square one.”
• Point guard Frankie Collins of Nevada, the No. 57 basketball prospect in the Class of 2021, signed with Michigan and wrote in Sports Illustrated that he is recruiting Minnehaha Academy standout Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 prospect in 2021, to sign there, too.
• P.J. Fleck offered Deylin Hasert a scholarship this past week. The Class of 2022 tackle out of Marshall is one of the top linemen in the country. 247 Sports has him ranked 80th for tackles, and he already has offers from Iowa and Iowa State along with the Gophers.
• While U.S. Bank Stadium waits to host events again, including potentially having some fans in attendance for Vikings games this season, the venue already has four major concerts scheduled for next year in Kenny Chesney (June 5), Def Leppard and Motley Crue (July 8), George Strait (July 31) and Rammstein (Sept. 3).
• Former Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys has been taking a big role in recruiting for Virginia Tech, where he is the linebackers coach.
• Updating a jotting on Elerson Smith: The Northern Iowa defensive end out of Minneapolis South posted 14 sacks last season as a redshirt junior, not 7½, which was the total from his sophomore season. Smith was recently named the FCS Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
• The Gophers have to be thrilled to land local hockey recruits Mason Nevers from Edina and Carl Fish from St. Paul Johnson. Nevers was named All-Metro first team by the Star Tribune in 2019 and Fish was named to the All-Metro third team in 2018.