Tampa Bay tripled its win total in 2015 from two to six, but it also lost its last four games of the season. That was enough for general manager Jason Licht and the rest of the team's brass to justify firing Smith, per Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com.
"I think when you have eight wins in two years, three home wins in two years, I think [fans have] been patient enough," Licht said during a Thursday afternoon news conference at the team's headquarters. "It does take time, but I think while you're building a good football team you can compete."
It wasn't an easy situation for Smith. Tampa had been shut out of the playoffs for six years before he arrived, and the team was playing with a rookie quarterback this season in Jameis Winston.
DiRocco wrote that while Licht "did not want to talk about Smith's failings," it was "clear" a struggling defense the past two years was a big reason Smith was let go. The head coach brought over Leslie Frazier to be defensive coordinator in 2014. That did not work out, and according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, "the Bucs on Thursday informed defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier" they wouldn't be keeping him.
ESPN's Adam Schefter (via DiRocco) said Tampa ownership also did not like the fact the Buccaneers led the league in penalties this past season and questioned some of Smith's coordinator hires.
While it obviously was not a great two-year run, some other teams may have given Smith more of a chance to prove himself. However, since Jon Gruden coached in Tampa from 2002-2008, the team has been impatient with three head coaches the past seven years.
|Tampa Bay Head Coaches 2009-2015|
Licht confirmed Smith was fired over the phone because that was what he preferred, per DiRocco.
"All I'd say is a football decision was made that we thought was best for the future of the franchise," Licht said. "I understood the decision after conversations. "Once again, deep respect for Lovie as a football coach, but we felt this franchise needed a new face, a new coach, to get us back to winning."
There are plenty of possible replacements, and DiRocco said current offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is one of them.
Winston improved immensely as the season went on under Koetter, and Licht had high praise for the 56-year-old coordinator.
"He's put a good resume in front of him this year," Licht told DiRocco. "Historically the best offense we've had here in Tampa Bay. He's a good communicator. He's done great things with Jameis. There's a lot of good football coaches out there, and Dirk is one of them."
It seems the head coach should get some credit for that as well, but it's obvious Tampa was no longer a good fit for Smith.
The 57-year-old, who is the only head coach to take the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl since they won it with Mike Ditka in 1985, could have a good shot at landing a head coaching job somewhere else with six other current coaching vacancies.