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Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bucs make right call on Lovie Smith

By Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- For the first time in a long time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got something right.

They agreed to contract terms with Lovie Smith to be their new head coach, sources told ESPN on Wednesday night. The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, didn't fare well with their past two coaches, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano. But the Glazers got it right this time.

Lovie Smith
Lovie Smith strikes an ideal balance between previous Bucs coaches Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano.
They reached back into their past for Smith. He was the linebackers coach back when head coach Tony Dungy turned the Bucs from a consistent loser to a regular winner in the late 1990s. When you look back on Tampa Bay's history, the Dungy years were glory days for a franchise that struggled for two decades after entering the league as an expansion franchise in 1976.

Smith, 55, is similar to Dungy in many ways. They both came from strong defensive backgrounds and both are the strong, silent type when it comes to leadership beliefs. But Smith is not a Dungy clone. He'll put his own stamp on the team.

Smith left Tampa Bay in 2001 to be the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, then became the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2004. He led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, a game they lost to Dungy's Indianapolis Colts.

The Bears were a regular playoff contender before Smith was fired at the end of the 2012 season. With a Tampa Bay team that already features a strong defense, Smith might be able to turn around the Buccaneers very quickly, despite that they finished 4-12 in 2013.

He is expected to bring in former California coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator, and that would be a great move. (There are strong indications Smith will hire former Detroit Lions coach and former Tampa Bay assistant Rod Marinelli as his defensive coordinator). Tedford helped develop Aaron Rodgers at Cal. The offense wasn't always Smith's strong point in Chicago, but Tedford should help in that regard. It's unclear how Smith and Tedford feel about quarterback Mike Glennon, who started 13 games for the Bucs as a rookie in 2013.

But it is clear that Smith will bring balance to an organization that desperately needs it. The Bucs have gone from one extreme to the other in recent years. Morris was a classic players' coach and Schiano was far more militaristic -- and neither style worked well.

Smith's style is much more in the middle of the road, and that should sit well with players who weren't always happy with Schiano's ways and took advantage of Morris' leniency.

With Smith, the Bucs might have a chance to compete for a playoff berth for the first time since the 2007 season.