The Glazers revisited history with the Buccaneers' newest head coaching hire, bringing back former linebackers coach Lovie Smith. With nine seasons worth of experience as a head coach in Chicago, Smith brings a defensive mind and a steady calm to a franchise that has just finished a tumultuous 2013 season.
The Buccaneers took 26 days to hire Greg Schiano as the Buccaneers head coach in 2012 after firing Raheem Morris. This time around it took just four days to find Schiano's replacement, as the Glazers, the team's ownership group, got the coach they had targeted from the beginning.
The Buccaneers officially announced the hire on their team website Thursday afternoon.
"Today is an exciting day for the Buccaneer organization, and the entire Tampa Bay community, as we welcome back Lovie Smith," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. “Lovie is an accomplished and very well respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career. We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead this team into this new era of Buccaneer football.”
Smith and the team agreed to a five-year deal. The Buccaneers’ new head coach will be formally introduced at a press conference at One Buccaneer place on Monday, Jan. 6, at 2:00 p.m. ET. The pr
Reports began floating on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon that the Glazers had already interviewed Smith, with some saying as earlier as last Monday, the same day Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were fired. Smith, who was out of coaching after being fired by Chicago after the 2012 season, could have been interviewed earlier than that in December if the Glazers had made up their minds that Schiano wasn't going to return.
Smith will bring former University of California head coach Jeff Tedford to Tampa Bay to become the team's offensive coordinator. Smith's good friend, Rod Marinelli, who has coached with Tampa Bay as the team's defensive line coach (1996-2005), been Detroit's head coach and worked with Smith in Chicago as the defensive coordinator, would become the Bucs defensive coordinator. Marinelli is currently serving as the defensive line coach in Dallas under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who used to have that role in Tampa Bay from 1996-2008. Smith's backup option at defensive coordinator has reportedly been former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier if the Bucs can't get Marinelli out of Dallas.
The Glazers had an obvious familiarity with Smith from his days on former coach Tony Dungy’s staff. Smith served as linebackers coach in Tampa from 1996-2000 under Dungy, and then parlayed that into becoming the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2001. After three seasons in St. Louis, the Bears hired Smith to be the team’s head coach, where he served for nine seasons and complied a record of 88-64 as head coach, including an NFC Championship in 2006 before losing, ironically, to Dungy’s Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Smith is expected to bring calmness to Tampa Bay after a tumultuous 2013 campaign, which was marred by the benching and release of starting quarterback Josh Freeman, a MRSA outbreak at One Buccaneer Place, a rash of injuries and a dreadful 0-8 start to the season under Schiano. Smith also beings an impressive resume that already has some Buccaneers players excited.
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy tweeted on Wednesday night, “Lovie Smith. Grade A!! Gonna be fun!!! Wonder what else they have in store? Hmmm.”
Then followed it up with, “Love the excitement of everybody but DO NOT FORGET the only way things work is if we put in the WORK. Not gonna be easy has to be earned.”
Former Bucs also chimed in via Twitter on their happiness with the choice of Smith.
"So excited tonight @TBBuccaneers. Bucs got better tonight with Lovie Smith coming back as the new H/C. Words can't describe my excitement," former Bucs legendary linebacker and Smith pupil Derrick Brooks tweeted late Wednesday night.
Dungy tweeted his approval of the hire.
"Congratulations to the Bucs. I think they made a very good choice in hiring Lovie Smith. Now I'm excited about watching the Bucs next year!"
Smith has been compared to Dungy ever since he served under the Bucs' second all-time winningest coach for five seasons, and was to be hired to help return Tampa Bay to respectability after 11-21 over the previous two seasons under Schiano. The organization's reputation took a hit over the last year, which ended in a 4-12 mark and there was plenty of fan unrest.
On the surface, Smith faces a tough challenge, as the Buccaneers have had six losing seasons in their last 10 years, including the most recent, a dismal 4-12 finish in 2013. But as Schiano said on Monday, the next Bucs head coach will walk into a good situation.
Defensively, the Buccaneers finished 17th in overall team defense, which was an upgrade over the 29th-ranked unit in 2012. The defensive roster has a solid base of talent led by McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David, Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson. Add in promising young players like defensive tackle Akeem Spence, defensive tackle William Gholston and cornerback Johnthan Banks, and the nucleus for a Top 10 defense is already in place.
Tampa Bay's offense is where the biggest issues lie. Smith, Tedford and the coaching staff will need to determine quickly if Mike Glennon is the answer at quarterback. An upgrade of talent is also needed on the offensive line, regardless of who is behind center.
At age 31, wide receiver Vincent Jackson isn’t getting any younger, and Mike Williams is coming off hamstring surgery and missed the second half of the season in injured reserve. But nether possess game-changing speed, something the Bucs have been void of on offense since the days of Joey Galloway streaking down the field for former head coach Jon Gruden.
The good news for Smith is that Tampa Bay holds the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft this May, and can address one of the needs immediately. There is also the possibility of moving down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick that will be surrendered to New York for the Revis trade.– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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