Dungy believes Lovie Smith and Bucs would be a 'good fit'
Lovie Smith was there in the beginning of the turnaround, coaching linebackers under Tony Dungy in '96 when the Bucs were transformed from lovable losers to eventual Super Bowl champions. By the time the Bucs won the Lombardi Trophy, Smith was the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams and later the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
But Dungy said Wednesday he believes it's the perfect time for the Bucs to bring Smith back as head coach.
"I think he knows the lay of the land in the organization, number one,'' Dungy said. "He's been there and knows how this
thing really developed and how it got going well. I also think he could bring some of that back. They've got talented people in place and the one thing he had in Chicago if you talk to all those players was that loyalty factor and guys wanting to play for him and I think that's what he would bring and kind of bring this group together. So I think it could be a really good fit.''
Smith, 55, is expected to be the first to interview for the Bucs head coaching job. He also is on the list of candidates for the head coaching jobs with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins. Smith has a long-time personal relationship with Martin Mayhew, who was a defensive back for the Bucs when Smith arrived in Tampa Bay in '96.
Smith's ability to assemble a coaching staff will be a boost to the Bucs, Dungy said. Various media reports say Smith plans to bring former California head coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator. Smith may also be able to hire defensive line guru Rod Marinelli and former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.
"He really could (bring a good coaching staff),'' Dungy said. "There are a lot of people that would like to work for him and I would guess the whole key will be who they want to get as a GM and the whole kind of structure they have and how they move forward. But I think Lovie knows how to win in the NFL, he knows a lot of good people. He would have a lot of people who would love to work for him on the staff and he'll have players who would love to play for him. So that's a pretty good combination of things to have.''
While Dungy's endorsement of Smith for the the Bucs head coaching job would carry weight with the Glazer family, he said he's had no contact with the Bucs' owners.
"I have not and I don't think that's the way they operate,'' Dungy said. "I think they kind of decide what they want to do and make up their mind and do it but no, I've not had any contact with them in terms of what's going on now.''
However, don't expect Dungy to leave his broadcasting job at NBC for an NFL front office or sideline.
"No. No. No. No. No,'' Dungy said. "I had a great job and for 28 years loved it, but I'm not looking forward to any place whether it's Detroit or here or Minnesota or any place I have ties to. Everybody is trying to put two and two together and get five.''
Timing will be critical in the Bucs' pursuit of Smith. It's believed Smith's No. 1 choice is Tampa Bay for the reasons Dungy mentioned: he's familiar with ownership, the Bucs have talent on defense with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David, safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson and cornerback Darrelle Revis, they're more than $10-million under the salary cap and have first-class training facilities.
But many of those elements are in place in Detroit and Washington, including a key element that is not available in Tampa Bay -- a franchise quarterback. The Lions are set with Matthew Stafford and the Redskins have Robert Griffin III.
The Bucs also have to replace general manager Mark Dominik, which could slow the process. Interestingly, Dungy believes the Glazer family may already have one in place if not under contract.
"I haven't heard of hiring the coach ahead of the GM but my guess is these guys have a plan and they may have a GM in place and ready to go already, I'm not sure,'' Dungy said. "But I don't think this is a surprise. From what I know about how things function over there, I don't think this is a spur of the moment decision.''
Could that mean Smith may be forced to wait on the Bucs? It took the Glazers 26 days to finish their head coaching search before they hired Greg Schiano. It took 36 days after they fired Dungy to make the trade with the Raiders for Jon Gruden.
"Yes. I think that could be the case,'' Dungy said. "But if it's the right situation, you wait. And I think this is a pretty good situation.''