TAMPA, Fla. – For the first time in a long time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got something right.
They agreed to contract terms with Lovie Smith to be their new head coach Wednesday night. The Glazer family, which owns the team, hasn’t fared well with recent decisions to make Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano the head coaches. But the Glazers got it right this time.
They reached back into their past for Smith. He was the linebackers coach back when head coach Tony Dungy turned the team from a consistent loser to a regular winner in the late 1990s. When you look back on Tampa Bay’s history, the Dungy years were the glory years for a franchise that struggled for years after entering the league as an expansion franchise in 1976.
Smith, 55, is similar to Dungy in many ways. They both came from strong defensive backgrounds and both are the strong-silent type when it comes to leadership beliefs. But Smith is not a Dungy clone. He’ll put his own stamp on the team.
After leaving Tampa Bay in 2001 to become the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, Smith became the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2004. Smith led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, a game they lost to Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bears were a regular playoff contender before Smith was fired at the end of the 2012 season. With a Tampa Bay team that already features a strong defense, Smith might be able to turn the Buccaneers, who went 4-12 in 2013, around very quickly.
He is expected to bring former California coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator and that would be a great move. Tedford helped develop Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The offense wasn’t always Smith’s strong point in Chicago, but Tedford should help in that regard. It’s unclear how Smith and Tedford feel about Mike Glennon, who started 13 games for the Bucs in 2013.
But it is clear that Smith will bring balance to an organization that desperately needs it. The Bucs have gone from one extreme to the other in recent years.
Morris was the classic players’ coach. Schiano was far more militaristic and neither style worked well for the Bucs.
Smith’s style is much more in the middle of the road and that should sit well with players that weren’t always happy with Schiano’s ways and took advantage of Morris’ freedom.
With Smith, the Bucs might have a chance to compete for a playoff berth for the first time since the 2007 season.