As Lovie Smith was introduced as the 10th coach in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the man replacing Greg Schiano, who was fired a week ago after a disappointing 4-12 season, the process of assembling his coaching staff was ongoing.
Smith acknowledged the hiring of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who was the head coach at the University of California, and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the former defensive coordinator and head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and a former defensive assistant under Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. He also said he was closing in on the hiring of his special teams coach.
“Special teams coordinator, too,” Smith said. “I’m in the process of that – it is three phases for us. Hopefully we can get the special teams coordinator guy I have in mind fairly quick too.”
That coordinator is believed to be Kevin O’Dea, whom Smith knew from his days of coaching in Tampa as an offensive and defensive assistant from 1996-2001. O’Dea is currently in Kansas City where he has served as the Chiefs special teams coach. The 53-year old O’Dea has worked for Smith in Chicago during two stints as an assistant special teams coach from 2006-07, and also from 2011-12.
The Chiefs were eliminated from the 2013 playoffs after losing at Indianapolis on Saturday, 45-44.
Smith hinted that O’Dea might be the special teams coordinator candidate when he mentioned his name in Monday’s press conference when discussing some of the great members of Tony Dungy’s initial staff in Tampa Bay.
“I’m so thankful to Tony Dungy for allowing me to be on his first staff and get an opportunity to work on his staff with great guys like Monte [Kiffin], Herman [Edwards], Kevin [O’Dea] and, of course, a guy that ended up being like a brother to me, Rod Marinelli, which allowed us to coach a special group of men like Hardy [Nickerson] and [John] Lynch and Rondé [Barber] and Shelton [Quarles] and [Warren] Sapp and, of course, a guy who ended up being like a son to me in Derrick Brooks,” Smith said.
Alex Marvez first reported that the Bucs hired Joe Cullen to serve as the team’s defensive line coach. Cullen coached Cleveland’s defensive line last year after spending three years (2009-12) in Jacksonville serving in the same capacity. Cullen served as the Detroit Lions defensive line coach from 2006-08 under Marinelli, Smith’s close friend.
Atlanta fired its defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and had requested and received permission to interview Cullen on January 3, but the Bucs apparently beat the Falcons to the punch with his hiring.
While Smith said that he has not reached out to former Buccaneers legendary linebacker Derrick Brooks, who is the general manager of the Tampa Bay Storm, to join the organization in an official capacity, the team’s new head coach said that he may bring back a former player to coach.
“As I’m putting our coaching staff together right now, hopefully there are – it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on our staff,” Smith said. “I’m not talking [just] about Derrick – it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on the staff.”
Could that player be former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who served on Smith’s staff as a linebackers coach in 2007? Nickerson, who was the color analyst for the Bucs radio broadcast in 2006, served the last four years as the head coach for Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. before stepping down in November. Nickerson was seen at One Buccaneer Place in December and attended a Bucs game while in town.
Jeff Rapp of SportsRappUp.com, which covers Ohio State football, reported that Tim Spencer would be reuniting with Smith in Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers’ running backs coach. Spencer, a Buckeyes alum, and Smith coached together at Ohio State in 1995, and Spencer served on Smith’s staff as the running backs coach from 2004-12. Spencer was able to produce 1,000-yard seasons from Thomas Jones (2005-06) and Matt Forte (2008, 2010, 2012) in Chicago, but did not have much success in coaching Cedric Benson, the Bears’ first-round pick in 2005, to greatness. Benson didn’t rush for more than 674 yards in three seasons in Chicago.
On Tuesday Footballscoop.com reported that Andrew Hayes-Stoker will join Smith to coach the Bucs’ receivers.Hayes-Stoker was an assistant WRs coach with the Bears under Smith in Chicago from 2010-12. Hayes-Stoker, played running back for TCU behind LaDainian Tomlinson.
A report by Marvez said that Smith will add Mississippi State offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo who coached Cal’s QBs under Tedford for two seasons. Arroyo, along with Tedford, would be in charge of determining if Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon is the future. During his Monday press conference, Smith was complimentary of Glennon and sounded like he thought he could win with Glennon under center.
“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.”
The Buccaneers strayed from the normal path of hiring a general manager prior to hiring a head coach when the team brought Smith aboard. Part of the reason is that Smith has been given final say on personnel decisions, which will limit the power of the person the team decides to hire to replace Mark Dominik, who served as the Bucs general manager from 2009 until his firing last Monday.
“First off, I look at it as a marriage and as a big group making the decision [regarding personnel],” Smith said. “Of course, as a head football coach, most things stop at your doorstep. As you know, we don’t have a general manager in place yet. Once our owners decide who, exactly, will be in that role, I look forward to getting with them and making decisions together that are going to lead us to a championship.”
While several league sources continue to speculate that Kansas City director of player personnel Chris Ballard, who served as an area scout and ultimately the director of college scouting in Chicago, will become Tampa Bay’s next general manager, Smith said that no hire appears imminent.
“Of course, here as the head football coach, I’m going to be part of the process,” Smith said. “But we’re working through a lot of different things in time. Keep in mind that I got into town yesterday. It’s going to take a little while, but we’re still ahead of the game right now. In due time, we’ll have someone in.”
Bucs director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, director of college scouting Eric Stokes and director of pro personnel Shelton Quarles, who played for Smith as a linebacker in Tampa Bay, are all still employed by the team and attended Smith’s introductory press conference on Monday. Quarles said he has not received any assurances from the organization that he will be retained once a new general manager is hired, but remains hopeful.
“No word to this point, so as of right now I’m moving forward as if I’m going to be here,” Quarles said. “I can’t worry about that stuff. I have to make sure I’m doing what I need to do to be productive and ultimately show what I can do.
Quarles has obvious ties to Smith and that certainly helps his chances of keeping his job. Quarles feels like he would be a great asset for Tampa Bay’s new regime moving forward.
“I’m excited and I think it would be a good relationship because I know what he expects and what he’s looking for in players,” Quarles said. “When he first started me out, he started me as a strongside linebacker, but I also subbed in on the nickel side and behind Hardy [Nickerson] at middle linebacker. I know what to look for and what kind of movements those guys have to have.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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