Lovie Smith on Bucs' firing: 'I thought we had a plan'
Lovie Smith didn't make any public comments two months ago when he was fired as the Bucs' head coach after an 8-24 record in two seasons, but after being hired this past week at the University of Illinois, he's now talking about his dismissal.
Speaking to Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports Radio, Smith said he was "disappointed" and "surprised" that the Glazer family made the decision not to give him a third season to build on the Bucs' improvement in going from 2-14 his first year to 6-10 in the 2015 season.
"When you make a change, it takes a while," Smith said. "We made progress from Year 1, and I thought the team was set up to really take off in Year 3. I can live with that. I'm pretty confident in my abilities, and normally when things like that have happened to me, I've been met with another great opportunity, and that's what I have here with the University of Illinois."
Smith got a six-year contract worth $21-million from the Illini, and has already turned to his old Bucs staff for some assistants, with former Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson leaving the 49ers to become his defensive coordinator and former receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker taking the same role on his new staff.
Asked about the overall lack of patience from NFL ownership today, Smith said he had expected more time to turn around a Bucs program that hasn't won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
"I definitely think there should be more patience. It takes time," Smith said. "If you make a change, there's something that's wrong, and you can't just flip a switch. Things don't happen overnight. You have to have a plan going in and stick with that plan. When I took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job, I thought there was a plan in place. I thought that plan was being put into action. When you're the boss, though, you can be impatient. Normally the franchises that do take their time and give you a chance maintain that level of success."
Asked if he felt blindsided or angry by the Bucs' decision, Smith said he didn't expect it. The team promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach, and Smith is moving on with a new job in college football.
"Disappointed is what I would say," he said. "I was surprised. Didn't see it coming. I thought we had a plan and I was a part of that plan. I felt like I put a lot of things in place for the Buccaneers to be successful in years to come."