Lovie Smith still high on the Bears

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
2:57
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith spoke with local media at the NFL combine on Thursday for the first time since the team fired him, and displayed a sense of humor when grilled about his termination.

“I strongly recommend if you get fired, take the year off like I did and it will help you an awful lot,” Smith jokingly said.

After spending the entire 2013 season out of football, Smith, in January became the head coach at Tampa Bay. Since coming into the new job, Smith said he hasn’t run into any surprises, and credits the experience gained in Chicago, where he served nine years as head coach of the Bears.

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFormer Bears coach Lovie Smith led Chicago to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl in nine seasons. He became Tampa Bay's head coach in January.
Smith led the Bears to the playoffs three times during his tenure, and the club appeared in two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl, but failed to reach the postseason in five of his last six years.

“Whenever you’ve had a chance to be somewhere for nine years, the next place should be easier,” Smith said. “There hasn’t really been anything that’s caught me off guard or anything like that. Having the year off helped. [I] had a chance to evaluate everything I believe in, I came to some of the conclusions that I thought.”

Obviously one of those was to remain classy. Smith refused to go into his personal thoughts about being fired in Chicago. Asked if he received a fair shake with the Bears, who fired him on Dec. 31 of 2012 as the club came off a 10-6 season, Smith quickly said, “It’s a Bucs life for me now; my focus is definitely on that.”

“I’ve worked at a lot of different places in the past. If you’d like to talk about Big Sandy [Texas] High School, I used to work there, too,” Smith added. “Great experience there. I’m excited about Tampa and what we’re doing. I’ve had the opportunity to work at a lot of great places. Chicago was one of them.”

With Smith out of football, his former defense in Chicago fell on hard times. Last season, the Bears gave up the most yards (6,313), points (478), and rushing yards (2,583) in franchise history. During Smith’s tenure, Chicago’s defense consistently performed among the league’s best in most statistical categories.

Smith couldn’t point out anything specifically that explained Chicago’s defensive demise in 2013, but the coach expressed confidence in the group bouncing back this upcoming season. The Bears host Smith and the Buccaneers in 2014.

“Every year is a different year. That group of guys have played pretty good defense in the past, and I don’t know exactly what happened this year,” Smith said. “But sometimes you have bad years for whatever reason. I know there are some warriors on that team that I’m sure will come back hard this year.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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