Two years into a three-year contract, Lovie Smith received his P45 from the Glazers. “That’s why the Bucs are basement dwellers”, “Lovie brought respectability back to the organisation”, “Lovie was turning the ship around” were just some of the remarks from the main stream media who obviously did not spend too much time watching Bucs games as they would have known that Lovie’s time was up at 1 Buc Place. The fact that the highly rated Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter was being touted for Head Coach positions in the NFL just forced the Glazers hand.
I joined the Bucs bandwagon fairly recently (October 2012 to be precise) however even I knew that Smith had to go. From the lack of discipline on the field, 143 penalties conceded in 2015 alone – an average of 9 penalties a game, to a defense which struggled to get to the QB and provide cover in the secondary. Granted, a 6-10 record was an improvement on his woeful first season 2-14 record but the Bucs will have to wait a long time to get an easier schedule than 2015 where the opposition consisted of an average NFC South (with the exception of the Panthers), an average AFC South and, well, the NFC East. In all, the Bucs played only four games against teams who ended the season with a winning record (Panthers x 2, Texans, Redskins).
Without doubt, the biggest frustration watching the Bucs was Smith’s continual use of the ‘bend-don’t-break’ defense which struggled stopping teams on 3rd downs. You only have to look at at the number of players and different combinations employed at Cornerback throughout the season to show that Smith didn’t really know his best line up. Somehow, Smith’s team managed to make average QB’s look like Joe Montana; Ryan Mallet, Case Keenum, Matt Hasselbeck to name but three!
The cold facts of the Lovie reign are thus:
- 8-24 record over two seasons
- Totally humiliated and under prepared for opening game of 2015 season against Titans
- Did not record a home win until week 5 of his SECOND season
- Recorded back to back wins only once in his reign (week 10 v Romo-less Cowboys at home followed by week 11 v Eagles away)
- Dropped Mike Glennon not once, but twice, for Josh McCown
- Wholly responsible for play-calling on Defense in 2015 (took over from Leslie Frazier)
However, not that I ever think failure should be celebrated, without Smith’s reign of pain in 2014, the Bucs would not have had the luxury of the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and therefore would not have future Hall of Famer QB Jameis Winston under centre.
With a franchise QB surrounded by a nucleus of good young players on Offense (plus the ultimate pro in Vincent Jackson), some impressive pieces in Defense (despite the struggles last season which was a result of the scheme than the personnel), an experienced campaigner calling the plays on Defense (ex-Falcons HC Mike Smith) and a new head coach in former Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter the future is looking rosy for Tampa.
Stuart is a big NFL fan who loves the roller coaster of emotions that comes with being a Buccaneers fan. When he isn’t watching the NFL he is busy daydreaming about spending the rest of his days on Clearwater Beach with a Tampa Bay Cheerleader. P.S. Don’t tell his wife that. Stuart can be followed on Twitter @stuarty1973.