Lovie Smith Is Everything the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need After Greg Schiano

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2014

USA Today

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasted no time at all finding a new head coach.

Fox Sports NFL analyst Jay Glazer broke the news late Wednesday night, approximately 57 hours after the team announced Greg Schiano's dismissal as head coach.

Maybe the Bucs learned a lesson from their negotiations in 2012 with former Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. That negotiation process took too long, and when Kelly backed out, Tampa Bay had to quickly move on to Schiano, who definitely wasn’t the team’s first choice and might not have even been its second favorite. Schiano had no time to put together the staff he wanted.

This week’s talks with Smith were the exact opposite of the back-and-forth, bogged-down negotiations with Kelly. And Smith is the exact opposite of Schiano.

Well, for the most part.

Schiano was picked apart for being too rigid with his coaching and management styles, not only on the field but at practice and in the team’s facility. Too many stories like “toes on the line” from former Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow or Schiano’s insistence that meeting rooms and road hotels had to be kept at a precise temperature, as reported by Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King, made Schiano out to be a bit of a bully.

But Tampa Bay couldn’t go for the exact opposite of Schiano because that didn’t work either—case in point, the Raheem Morris experience. Morris was the head coach from 2009 to 2011, when he was finally removed from power after his team lost its final 10 games of the 2011 season after starting 4-2.

Morris was the epitome of the buddy-buddy players’ coach. Everyone in the locker room loved Morris because it was like a country club, better yet a fraternity-house experience. The results, however, weren’t there.

Morris was 17-31 during his tenure with the Bucs, and even though he went 10-6 in 2010, Tampa Bay never made it into the playoffs while Morris was steering the ship. Schiano was 11-21 in his two seasons with the team. Neither method of coaching—and here you see two opposite styles—worked for the Buccaneers.

Enter Smith.

Smith is about as far away from both Schiano and Morris without being close to either on the other side. He’s an exact, dead-center option to both regimes. Smith brings a balance to the franchise, a calm. He’s both a players’ coach and deeply rooted in his beliefs.

Instead of bullying the Bucs, Smith’s going to teach. He’s going to turn the big dogs on this roster into leaders, into guys who will run through a brick wall. But Smith won’t ask them to run through that wall for him; they’ll be working toward the betterment of the team. Everything is for the team.

It sounds eerily similar to an era of prosperity in Tampa Bay history.

From 1996 to 2001, Tony Dungy led the Buccaneers to four playoff appearances and a 54-42 record. He built a winning system based on defense and was revered within One Buc Place.

Smith is going to bring a similar belief that winning is based on a strong defense. He’s also going to bring a winning track record with him, experience that neither Morris nor Schiano possessed.

Smith coached the Chicago Bears to an 81-63 record in the nine years he was head coach from 2004 to 2012. He also led the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006, a game the Bears lost to the Dungy-coached Indianapolis Colts.

Smith isn’t an exact clone of Dungy, even though he worked under Dungy in Tampa Bay for five seasons as a linebackers coach. He’ll bring his own methods and apply his own stamp to the franchise. But the fact that he’s a similarly built head coach to Dungy is a good omen.

The fact that’s he’s completely different from both Schiano and Morris is perfect as well.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.