New Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith had his first press conference in Tampa Bay on Monday, and followed that up with an interview with the Buccaneers beat writers. PewterReport.com's Scott Reynolds analyzed Smith's initial meeting with the media and came away with five things that stood out.
1. Smith Likes Tedford Because He's A QB Guru And Believes In A Power Run Game
Smith hired former University of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford to become Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator for two reasons. First, he believed in a strong running game, which Tedford produced for the Golden Bears with halfbacks like J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and Justin Forsett, among others. Second, he wanted someone with a proven track record for developing quarterbacks.
“When you have a year off, you can do a lot of things and what I concentrated on – I prayed I would be back in the league this time of the year, so I wanted to get that ideal coaching staff in place,” Smith said. “I did a lot of research, talked to a lot of different people, other quarterbacks in the league. For my offensive coordinator position, I wanted to get a guy that had been a primary quarterback guru that knew that position in and out. My research led me to Jeff Tedford. After that, I looked at his track record and what he had done, especially at Cal – what he had done offensively – and I brought him in.
“We spent a couple of days together down in my basement in Chicago and kind of merged our philosophies – and they weren’t off – on how we wanted to play offensive football. And I’m talking about a strong running game, a power running attack. I think you have to have balance with your offense. We plan on having a balanced offensive attack. But at the same time, when I say balanced with the run, I mean being able to pass the ball and have a big-play ability in the passing game. I know a little bit about Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams – some of our players here. Mike Glennon came in and introduced himself. We’re just excited about putting it all together and competing and having our offense merge with our defense.”
Like Smith, Tedford has been out of football for a year and has been revitalized due to the time off.
“The energy that Jeff will bring,” Smith said. “Jeff’s a fresh guy, he hasn’t coached in the NFL, he has fresh ideas coming through. When we started matching up what I believed in and what he believed in, I just think this is going to be a good deal. I wanted a guy that knew that quarterback position in and out and I started looking around and it just so happened that Jeff. They had made a change at Cal and I started talking to him and I did my research.
“When you have time off you have time to call around, so I started calling around. I called Aaron Rodgers. I talked to guys around and studied him, looked at video, and I knew him just being a coach in the league. I knew this could be something because I knew I wanted to do things just a little bit differently. Then when I got with Jeff, you think of him as being a quarterback guy, but he had 1,0000-yard rushers and two one year. So we really believe in the same things and we got a chance to really – instead of me getting a job now and say what do we want to do? – I had a chance to talk to a lot of coaches before to have this staff kind of ready to go and had this firm belief that I would be coaching in this league again.”
Smith said that he isn’t concerned about the fact that Tedford does not have any experience as a play-caller at the NFL level.
“No, no. No way,” Smith said. “What I look at more is his background on developmental quarterbacks. To me, if you look in college, there are pro-style offenses that you have. You have to have that. I valued his knowledge as a football coach, more than the knowledge that he hadn’t been in the NFL.”2. It Appears As If Smith Thinks He Can Win With Glennon
With Tedford on board as Smith’s offensive coordinator and quarterback guru, the big question about Tampa Bay’s offense is who will be under center in 2014? Glennon, the team’s third-round pick last year, had a very good season, breaking most of Tampa Bay’s rookie records. Smith was impressed with what he saw from Glennon on TV.
“Just like every other position, I’ve watched Mike,” Smith said. “Mike was one of the first guys here early, walked in looked me straight in the eye and said ‘Hey coach I don’t know about the rules, when can we get started? That’s a good start right away this time of the year. What I see and what I like from him a little bit is, first off, he’s a – I wouldn’t say prototype, he’s little bit taller than a prototype quarterback. [He’s] just strong-armed, and he had great pocket presence to me. Mike’s won’t win a 10-yard sprint, probably – or maybe not a 40-yard sprint – but he can move around in the pocket enough, make smart decisions and there’s nothing like having that experience that he was able to get his rookie year.”
Smith went through several non-descript quarterbacks in his nine years in Chicago, including Brian Griese, Rex Grossman, who led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, and Kyle Orton before trading for Jay Cutler.
“Do I believe in a franchise quarterback? You’d have to explain [what] ‘franchise’ [means],” Smith said. “I believe you need to have a very good player at that position. Do I think you need a Hall of Fame guy to be able to win in the NFL? No. I think you can still win with a good quarterback.”
That description might fit Glennon, who is smart and has a strong arm, but lacks mobility and athleticism.3. Smith Wants An Athlete At Every Position, Including Quarterback
While some of the best quarterbacks in the game today are pocket passers, including Denver’s Peyton Manning, New England’s Tom Brady, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, players like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson are athletic QBs that are taking the NFL by storm by making plays with their arms or their legs.
Ideally speaking, Smith wants a more athletic quarterback, and there are several options available in the 2014 NFL Draft, especially in the first round where players like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel will be drafted.
“Definitely so, I think you need an athlete,” Smith said. “In an ideal world, you have an athlete at every position. Sometimes, you look at the pass-rusher on the other side. They’re athletic and they can run. So you need a guy who’s mobile enough to buy time and throw the ball or just to take off and run from time to time. That is something, but you look at the league right now, there are quarterbacks who are leading their team who aren’t as mobile as others. Michael Vick was on the sideline where the starting quarterback, Nick Foles, was different.”
Smith indicated that Glennon will get a fair chance to start in 2014 and is eager to continue his evaluation of the 6-foot-6 passer. However, one gets the sense that Smith would like to draft an athletic quarterback to create a contrast on the roster.
“Right now in the playoffs, it’s a lot about the quarterback,” Smith said. “We’re an evenly matched team, and we need that guy to do something there. So Mike’s our guy. There’s a lot expected of that position, but it’s been like that all his life. We’re going to evaluate. We haven’t sat down and hard evaluated our players yet. We’re going to get our staff in and start that process.”
Smith will also be evaluating the athleticism of every position on the Buccaneers and will be looking to upgrade the talent across the board.
“It’s about getting the personnel,” Smith said. “You can have that good coaching staff together, but in the end, of course, it’s the players out there and getting a certain type of athlete. In those old Tampa Bay days I talked about, [there were] athletes at every position, like a Shelton Quarles.”
Quarles, the current director of pro personnel in Tampa Bay, will get the chance to help his former position upgrade the athleticism this offseason.
“We’re a 4-12 team,” Smith said. “You are what your record says you are. We have a long ways to go, but we’re going to start that process. We know where we need special players.”4. Smith Seeks A Great Return Specialist In Tampa Bay
One thing Smith stressed during his initial press conference and meeting with the Bucs beat writers shortly thereafter was the importance of special teams play.
“To me, if you play great defense, you can win eight games,” Smith said. “If you have special teams along with that, you can win 10. But in order for us to have three phases that contribute to wins, we need a great returner also.”
The Bucs had first-year player Eric Page returning kicks and punts last year with some level of success. Page averaged 24.9 yards per kick return and 10.9 yards per punt return in 2013.
But Smith might have someone else in mind in 2014.
“Special teams, we win out,” Smith said. “I, myself, worked out Devin Hester. You’ve got to have a returner. You can win games. We won games based on our special teams and having a good kicker and a good punter.”
Hester, who tied Deion Sanders’ record for career special teams touchdowns with 19, happens to be an unrestricted free agent and Smith will undoubtedly be courting him to come to Tampa Bay in March. Hester was Chicago's second-round pick in 2006 when Smith was the Bears head coach.5. Smith Desperately Wants The Buccaneers To Be Relevant Again
Smith started his NFL career in Tampa Bay as Dungy’s linebackers coach in 1995, but was hired by St. Louis to become the Rams defensive coordinator in 2001. Smith missed out on getting a Super Bowl ring with the Rams that year and wasn’t in Tampa Bay when the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII. Smith missed out yet another championship in 2006 when his Bears team lost to Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
“I wasn’t there when you saw Bryan, Joel, and Ed having an opportunity to hold up the Lombardi Trophy with Mr. Glazer,” Smith said. “I wasn’t a part of that then, but Tampa has had a special place in my heart. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a relevant team and I am going to take that pressure. It will be what drives all of us – our staff and our players.
“We did, as Bryan said, lay a foundation for Tampa Bay Buccaneer football. There’s a certain brand of football that you expected from us. You knew we’d be relentless, we would play hard, physical, but there was a brand of football that you did get from us each week. At Raymond James Stadium, it was hard for opponents to come in and win. We have gotten away from that a little bit, and it is time, as we go to the future, for us to become a relevant team again. I’m so excited about the new group.”
Smith, who owns waterfront property in North Redington Beach in St. Petersburg, knows the recent history of the Buccaneers all too well. He knows why he was brought in to replace Greg Schiano, who went 11-21 over the past two seasons, and Smith also realizes Tampa Bay has been absent in the postseason for quite some time.
“You’re 4-12, and when’s the last time we’re in the playoffs?” Smith said. “That right there tells you all you really need to know. That’s not acceptable. Believe me, there have been good teams and close (games). We have to do more than that. Again, I got fired [going] 10-6. My mind-set right now, to me, a good year is 11-5. But it just shows that we’re not where we need to be. There are some pieces in place, though.”
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