- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Take Step in Right Direction with Lovie Smith Hire - Jan 6, 2014
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After starting the 2013 season with eight straight losses, it became clear that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a number of organizational leaks to plug. Even though the Bucs finished the season with a 4-12 record after making the switch to Mike Glennon at quarterback, we suspected more change was on the horizon in Tampa. That’s why we weren’t shocked when coach Greg Schiano got the axe after two seasons, but what was somewhat surprising is that even after making nearly every conceivable mistake this season, the Bucs finally got something right this week in replacing Schiano with a proven winner –former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
Not only did the Bucs land one of the most coveted coaching candidates of the offseason, they also locked him in to a five-year contract, which is an even bigger win for an organization that was in desperate need of a premier defensive mind and a head coach with a winning track record in the NFL.
In nine seasons (2004-2012) at the helm of the Chicago Bears, Smith posted a career win/loss mark of 84-66, including three postseason victories and a Super Bowl appearance (2006). While those achievements are impressive on their own, it’s Smith’s background and experience with the Bucs as their linebackers coach from 1996-2000 that makes him the team’s ideal head man for the future.
As fans of the franchise surely know, Smith contributed to what are considered to be some of the era’s finest and stingiest defense teams with Tampa Bay. Under head coach Tony Dungy, Smith also helped develop the revolutionary Tampa 2 defense, which, along with an intimidating roster of All-Pros, lifted the long-suffering franchise to consistent success for the first time in its history.
Here’s what Dungy had to say about the hire at a recent news conference (via ESPN.com):
“I think the fit is going to be tremendous. No. 1, he knows the area, he knows how the team got built into a Super Bowl winner, he knows how to win in the NFL, but more than that, I think he is going to build just a chemistry and camaraderie in that locker room and in the whole organization that’s going to resemble what we had before. I’m really excited and I know the players are going to be ecstatic playing for Coach Smith.”
Smith certainly brings aura of success to a team that has slipped back into a losing pattern in recent years, but there will be some who contend Tampa Bay would have been best served by hiring an offensive-minded coach, considering the Bucs finished 2013 ranked dead last in passing offense (176.3 yards per game). However, after hiring play-calling whiz and former Cal Golden Bears head coach Jeff Tedford as Tampa’s offensive coordinator this week, Smith showed that he is not only a coach who understands his own limitations, but also that he isn’t wasting any time in assembling a versatile and talented staff to turn the Buccaneers around again.
Turning the Bucs into a playoff contender in the competitive NFC South next season will not be easy, but with running back Doug Martin expected to be healthy, Glennon showing some good qualities as an NFL starter, and an above average defense, Smith and his staff will have some fairly strong pieces to work with in 2014. At this point, we still can’t put the Buccaneers above the Carolina Panthers or New Orleans Saints in the division, but hiring Smith is definitely a step in the right direction, especially considering the rather slim pickings the franchise was looking at in attempting to fill its head coaching vacancy.
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