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Lovie Smith doomed by performance of defense

Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Lovie Smith was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday night, after leading them to an 8-24 record over his two seasons at the helm.

The 8-24 record by the Buccaneers is tied for the second-worst in the NFL over that span, trailing only the Tennessee Titans (5-27).

Smith is the third straight head coach who did not last longer than three seasons in Tampa Bay, following in the footsteps of Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano. The most recent Buccaneers coach to get more than three years under his belt was Jon Gruden.

Smith’s Bucs were improving

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that Smith saw his team improve by four wins this season. However, this isn’t the first time he has been fired after improving a team; Smith was fired in 2012 after leading the Chicago Bears to a 10-6 record, a two-win increase from the previous season.

The Buccaneers' win improvement from last season to this season was tied for the fourth-best in the NFL, behind the Carolina Panthers (8), New York Jets (6), and Washington Redskins (5).

Tampa Bay might also have missed out on even more improvement under Smith. He took the Bears from 5-11 in his first season to 13-3 in his third season.

After beating the Philadelphia Eagles 45-17 in Week 11, the Buccaneers were 5-5 and one game out of the second NFC wild-card spot. But they fell apart down the stretch, finishing the season 1-5, with a minus-eight turnover margin in the final six weeks.

Buccaneers have struggled overall lately

Tampa Bay has finished under .500 in five straight seasons, the third-longest streak in the league behind the St. Louis Rams (9) and Cleveland Browns (8). The Buccaneers have missed the playoffs in eight straight seasons, and have not won a postseason game since the Super Bowl in the 2002 season.

The Buccaneers allowed 5.2 yards per play, which ranked eighth in the NFL this season. Of the teams in the top 10 for fewest yards per play, they were the only team with a losing record.

Since the start of 2011, the Buccaneers’ defense ranks second-worst in scoring and last in completion percentage and opponent QBR.