Lovie Smith Makes Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Early Winners in the NFL Head Coach Shuffle
The NFL season is down to the final eight teams, but before we get set for the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend, let’s take a look at the other topic that dominates the NFL headlines this time of year, and that’s the firing of head coaches and the search for new head coaches. Thus far, seven head coaches have lost their jobs. Only two of those seven teams have named a replacement, but the early winner in the annual head-coaching shuffle in the NFL is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
First off, the Bucs made the wise choice of firing Greg Schiano. With Tampa Bay getting off to a 0-8 start this season, Schiano was lucky he wasn’t fired midway through the season, especially when fans in Tampa put up billboards imploring the Bucs to fire him. With the team going 4-4 over the second half of the season, there was some momentum towards giving Schiano another season, especially considering the amount of years and money remaining on his contract. However, the Bucs swiftly fired Schiano following the season, attempting to fix the monumental mistake they made two years ago when they hired him based off a few good recruiting classes at Rutgers that delivered one season with a double-digit win total and no conference championships in the weakest BCS conference.
Soon after parting ways with Schiano, the Bucs moved fast to hire Lovie Smith, who spent 2013 out of the NFL after nine years as head coach of the Chicago Bears. Outside of the ridiculous pipe dreams teams have about hiring Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher, Smith was the best available candidate among those with previous head coaching experience in the NFL. Smith was once a top defensive coordinator in the NFL and was ultimately fired by the Bears despite a record that was 18 games over .500 in nine seasons in Chicago. Smith had a double-digit win total in two of his final three seasons in Chicago, including his final season, and wasn’t fired for his incompetency as much as the Bears wanted to move in a new direction after nine seasons with the same head coach.
Smith brings instant credibility to Tampa Bay, especially on the defensive side of the ball, which is where the Bucs have most of their talent. The Bucs will also benefit from having Leslie Frazier, previously the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, as their new defensive coordinator. With Smith and Frazier, two coaches with a dozen years of head coaching experience between them, in control of the defense, the future is bright for Tampa Bay on that side of the ball, especially since their last two draft classes have emphasized that side of the ball.
The Bucs are also in good shape on the offensive side of the ball, especially with a veteran coach like Smith calling the shots. The Bucs have a talented tandem at wide receiver with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, who could be a lethal combination with the right quarterback when they’re both healthy. At quarterback, Smith is free to draft whoever he wants or pursue someone in free agency if he chooses to do so; however, Mike Glennon showed enough during the second half of the season so that the Bucs don’t have to acquire a new quarterback if no one they covet becomes available to them. That allows the Bucs some flexibility at quarterback, and a proven winner like Smith should be trusted to make the right decision to steer the franchise in the right direction.
As of right now, there are still a handful of teams scrambling to hire their next head coach, while the Buccaneers are well ahead of the game, and for now they are the winners of the head coach scramble. In less than a week they have fired their useless and incompetent head coach and hired arguably the best candidate available. Smith not only has previous head coaching experience, but he has experience winning as a head coach, which is not always something that can be found. He’s a good coach and a great fit for the Bucs, a team that needs it after the tumultuous season Schiano put them through.