TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has a well-deserved reputation for being stubborn.
He earned it in his days as the Chicago Bears' coach by doing things like sticking to the Tampa 2 defense and staying with quarterback Rex Grossman when fans were screaming to get rid of both.
So what the heck happened the other day when Smith released quarterback Josh McCown? He was showing flexibility I didn’t think he had. It’s funny how a 2-14 season can change your thinking.
A year ago, McCown was Smith’s hand-picked quarterback. They had been together in Chicago and there was a comfort level that flowed both ways. Mike Glennon, who had started 13 games in 2013, immediately was pushed to the bench to make room for McCown.
In theory, McCown was supposed to be the savvy veteran who rarely made mistakes. In theory, he was supposed to lead a highly efficient offense while the defense and special teams took care of the rest and the Bucs would contend for the playoffs.
In reality, none of that happened. It wasn’t all McCown’s fault. Things started going wrong in the preseason when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had to have a heart operation. Tedford left the team and never returned. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo ended up calling the plays and the offense never got into any real rhythm.
It also didn’t help that McCown severely sprained his thumb in the third game of the season. He missed five starts. Although Glennon didn’t play badly in McCown's absence, Smith showed his stubborn streak and went back to McCown after the thumb had healed.
Even when healthy, McCown didn’t play the way he was supposed to. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns and won only one game as the starter.
Still, I thought McCown would be back in 2015. I thought Smith would use him as a mentor for whichever quarterback the team drafts with the No. 1 overall pick -- either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. McCown is the kind of guy who could have accepted a role like that.
But it didn’t happen. That’s because Smith is showing flexibility, which isn’t a bad thing. The Bucs need change, and Smith is allowing it to happen.