This is not a "Fire Lovie" or "Lovie Needs More Time" piece. This article is simply about stating the facts, and quite frankly, some concerns about the Bucs' head coach.
It was Lovie Smith who said just last year that the season doesn't really start until November. If that was the case, it's amazing that he has a job anywhere in the NFL right now.
Throughout the course of Lovie Smith's career, he has had some successful moments, like going to a super Bowl with Rex Grossman as his quarterback, and some unsuccessful moments, like lackluster play from his team in big games. Right now, the Buccaneers are engulfed in the latter as they have fallen flat on this season in the past 3 games, all losses, and the players appear as if they thought the season ended after their win over the Falcons 3 weeks ago.
“Well we’re disappointed [about this game]. We’re going to talk about this one right now," Lovie Smith tried to deflect the question on the Bucs current late-season collapse. "We’re not going to talk about our wins that we had before. We’re just going to talk about this loss. That’s disappointing because we are a lot better football team than that. What it says about our team is that if you turn the ball over like that and you make a couple critical mistakes on the other end, you have an outcome like that. Let’s not group it all together. This is a better football team. Today we didn’t play our best ball. Let’s keep them separate.”
This type of collapse is nothing new for Lovie Smith led teams. As a matter of fact, during Lovie Smith's combined career as a head coach with the Bears (2004-12) and the Bucs ('14 & '15), he has had a winning record in November and December only 4 times in those 11 seasons. What's worse, is that 2 of those 4 seasons with winning records in November and December came within his first 3 seasons as a head coach. That means he's had just two successful late season runs in his past 8 seasons as a head coach.
I do not have a legitimate or factual explanation as to why Lovie Smith led teams have struggled so much in November and December (13-23 in his last 4 seasons as a head coach combined during these months). Any assumption I make that has prompted these late-season collapses would be simply that, an assumption. I'm sure you can come to your own conclusion.
There was a reason the Bears cut Lovie Smith loose after a 10-6 season. They had seen these late seen collapses and losing streaks far too often. In 2011, the Bears started the season 7-3, only to follow that with a 5-game losing streak, and end that season 8-8. In 2012, Lovie's Bears started an astounding 7-1, only to end that season 10-6, and missing the playoffs.
The Bucs, as an organization, must ask themselves a few questions when it comes to their current head coach.
Can we envision Lovie Smith leading the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title?
Can we envision Lovie Smith leading the Bucs to a playoff birth?
Why has our team collapsed late in back-to-back seasons under Lovie?
Does Lovie know how to get the most out of his players in the crucial months of November and December?
Is it a lack of talent, a lack of coaching, or a combination of both?
I'm not saying to fire Lovie Smith, but it is up to the Glazers and the organization to make sure they have the right man leading their organization that is filled with young players. Lovie Smith may have stabilized an organization that was completely out of control under Greg Schiano, and Lovie Smith may also keep the Buccaneers out of the negative national spotlight, but the issue is that he's also keeping the Bucs out of any national spotlight with the losses they have accumulated during the past two seasons.
Greg Schiano's 2 seasons as Bucs' head coach: 11-21
Lovie Smith's 2 seasons as Bucs' head coach: 8-24 or 9-23
I do believe that Lovie Smith will return as Bucs' head coach in 2016, but factors are starting to pile up against him. If the Bucs have as many flat performances in 2016 as they have had in 2015, especially down the stretch, next off-season may be the off-season where the Bucs are on the search for another head coach.