Lovie Smith was supposed to bring stability to the Buccaneers. An organization that had fired coaches after three and two years respectively needed a coach who could bring a calming presence. Lovie Smith was never a "homerun" hire for the Bucs, but he was supposed to be just what an organization in chaos needed.
The Bucs are now 2-11 in Lovie Smith's first season, and not much has gone right for the Bucs new head coach. Let's take a look at some of the decisions Lovie Smith has made both on the field and off the field since taking over as Buccaneers head coach:
Lovie Smith came to the Bucs, examined the roster, and believed he needed a complete overhaul. He brought in free agents like Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, and Josh McCown. While those three acquisitions have been busts, free agents like Clinton McDonald and Alterraun Verner have been average at best. However, average is actually a damn good thing for a Bucs player these days.
Speaking of Anthony Collins, Lovie Smith decided, before the season, that the Bucs offensive line needed a complete overhaul. Donald Penn is starting in Oakland, Davin Joseph is starting in St. Louis, and Jeremy Zuttah is playing at a pro bowl level in Baltimore. Their replacements (Collins, Logan Mankins, and Evan Dietrich-Smith) have all led to the Bucs having arguably one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The jury is still out on RB Charles Sims whom the Bucs selected in the 3rd round last May instead of taking a guard to help their offensive line.
Lovie Smith handed the Bucs starting quarterback position to a career backup without even a competition from Mike Glennon or anyone else. Lovie's loyalty can be his achilles heal at times, and in this situation, it most certainly has been. Josh McCown never deserved to be handed a starting job in the NFL or any other level of football. McCown has just 9 touchdowns on the year to 11 interceptions. Yes, the offensive line has not been good, but neither has McCown. What do both have in common? Lovie Smith!
Let's not forget about the in-game decision making Lovie Smith has displayed at the end of close games recently. Against his former team in Chicago, Lovie Smith challenged a horrendous 4th and 1 QB sneak by Josh McCown that was well short of the line to gain. Lovie would lose the challenge and a crucial timeout with two minutes left in the game. With the timeout, the Bucs possibly get the ball back with over a minute on the clock. Instead, the Bucs received the ball back with just seconds remaining and ultimately lost.
Against the Bengals, we all got to see the infamous "12 men on the field" blunder by the Bucs and their coaching staff. The Bucs would lose 14-13 because of this coaching fundamental blown by their own coaching staff.
Speaking of coaches, what exactly happened with Jeff Tedford? Lovie Smith said that he sat with Tedford during his year off and the two of them just clicked. I understand that health problems are going to occur, but if Tedford is healthy enough to pursue other jobs now, why wouldn't he be able to help out one of the worst offenses in the NFL? The Bucs entered Sunday's matchup with the Lions 26th in total offense and managed just 233 total yards. The Bucs have also managed to score more than 17 points in just 3 games this season. Jeff Tedford couldn't help that? He thought he'd be a distraction? Lovie Smith was supposed to have changed when it came to his offense. I believe Lovie's offensive struggles are still very real, and I'm concerned over who his next offensive coordinator choice could be.
While we're still focused on Lovie Smith, we can't forget the blowouts the Bucs have had this year. The Bucs were just not prepared to face the Falcons in week 3 or the Ravens earlier this season. Both games were embarrassing blowouts, and while the score did not reflect the blowouts that the aforementioned games were, Sunday's loss to the Lions was another example of the Bucs being beat in every phase of a game.
As you can see, when your team is 2-11 and in the driver's seat for the 1st overall pick in the following year's NFL Draft, there aren't many areas to hang your hat on. We had thought that the Bucs defense might be improving, but after the Lions rolled out over 400 yards of total offense, one might look to Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton contributing to that "improved Bucs defense" as much as the Bucs defense was.
The goal for the Bucs should be for Lovie Smith to be in Tampa for several years and build some stability within the organization, but with arguably the Bucs most important off-season ever fastly approaching along with a 1st round quarterback, the Glazers need to decide if what they've seen in Lovie Smith's 1st year matches what he had told them before he was hired.
Has Lovie Smith changed?
Will he bring offense or at least an intelligent offensive mind?
Is Lovie Smith and whomever his choice of offensive coordinator is the best choices to groom a 1st round quarterback?
While no one is publicly calling for Lovie Smith to be fired after just one season, to call him unequivocally "safe" probably isn't right either. The Glazers have their work cut out for them this off-season to make sure that their franchise is finally heading in the right direction. Right now, every move their current head coach is making seems to be in the wrong direction.
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