NFC South: NFC
January, 1, 2014
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesConsidering Lovie Smith's success and professionalism, it's about time a team gave him another chance.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Lovie Smith on Wednesday as their next head coach, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and Jay Glazer of Fox.
My reaction to the news: About time somebody snatched him up. Smith should've gone into the 2013 NFL season as a head coach. But after a couple of interviews, he emerged as a potential coordinator instead of leader of men, and a coordinator position was something he wasn't interested in accepting. So, good for Smith he waited for a head coaching gig instead of settling for a job as a coordinator.
Ask any of Smith's holdovers on Chicago's roster and they'll tell you Smith is more than deserving of a second chance as a head coach in the NFL.
Smith spent nine seasons as the head coach for the Chicago Bears before being fired at the end of 2012's 10-6 season. During his tenure in Chicago, Smith posted a record of 84-66, in addition to winning three division titles and leading the Bears to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI.
Given what's transpired in Chicago (the demise of the once vaunted defense), several hypothetical scenarios involving Smith have been mentioned. But for one minute, let's forget about those and salute Smith for his latest accomplishment. Having spent five years with the Bucs before leaving to become the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 2001, Smith has familiarity with Tampa Bay's organization.
But more than that, Smith paid his dues toiling as an assistant all those years before actually proving himself as a winner and galvanizing force with the Bears.
Smith didn't return calls seeking comment about his latest move, likely because that's just not his style.
Smith is a results-oriented coach, who ultimately understood he didn't get it done in Chicago to the organization's standards and accepted his fate as gracefully as one could. That's why Smith never made salacious headlines, why he never talked about the current state of the Chicago Bears or why he never gave his side about being fired despite putting up a 10-6 record in his final season.
What stands out the most about Smith is how his players reacted to him. During training camp going into the 2012 season, three players in a restaurant one night gave distinctive accounts about what made Smith stand apart. Every one of those players spoke about Smith's calm demeanor, how he never became overly emotional no matter how dire the situation.
But what stuck out is how each of those players never wanted to disappoint Smith. One player talked about making a mistake in a game and getting "the look" from Smith that made him feel as if he disappointed his own father. It was enough to make that player vow to never do it again, and that conversation took place a few years after that player committed the original transgression. That's the type of power Smith carried, and it was one of the most underrated of Smith's attributes in the public eye.
Either way, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored big with the hiring of Smith, who served as the franchise's linebackers coach from 1996 to 2000. With Smith in control of Chicago's defense, the Bears surrendered just 1.4 points per drive, which ranked as third-best during his time as the team's head coach.
Perhaps former Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy summed it up best on Twitter when he said, "I think they made a very good choice in hiring Lovie Smith. Now I'm excited about watching the Bucs next year!"
Despite being way up here in frozen Chicago, I feel the same way. Bucs ownership will, too, with Smith at the controls.