The full press recruitment of Lovie Smith to the Bucs
When he was asked to interview for the Texans head coaching job, Lovie Smith was sent a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Houston on a commerical flight. No private plane, no organization entourage knocking on his door in Lake Forest, Ill.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers asked to interview Smith, the team's three co-chairmen flew to the Windy City Tuesday in the dead of winter and summoned the former Bears' head coach to a home owned by Bryan Glazer, who was joined by his brothers, Joel and Ed.
"In the coaching carousel, everybody is playing this shadow game and trying to figure out where they stand,'' said Smith's son, Matt, an agent for IMG who represents his dad. "The Bucs were very candid they wanted dad and they were willing to do what it takes to get him. They knew who they wanted and they got their guy.''
Smith, 55, officially was named the Bucs head coach Thursday after signing a five-year contract. A news conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at One Buc Place to introduce him.
There's been a lot of speculation about where Smith, arguably the most coveted free agent head coach, might wind up. Why did he choose Tampa Bay over the Detroit Lions, who have a great front seven on defense, an unwordly receiver in Calvin Johnson and a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford? Or over the Washington Redskins, who are a high-profile job with quarterback Robert Griffin III?
The reason? Familiarity.
Familiarity with the Glazer family and organizational structure. Smith began his career as a linebackers coach on Tony Dungy's first staff in '96. Familiarity with the Tampa Bay community, which he loves. Familiarity with the franchise DNA, identified by a dominant defense.
And familiarity is not much different than family when you think about it.
"It's home,'' Matt said. "That was something it had over other places. The level of familiarity and comfort level was important. And in the NFL, being comfortable, familiar with where you are and who you're working with adds to the chemistry of the organization.
He said, "I just don't want to go somewhere, I want to go to the right place. Tampa is the right place.''
Certainly, the Bucs feel comfortable with Smith, who has compiled an impressive resume since leaving the Bucs after the 2000 season to become the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator and then the Bears head coach two years later. "Today is an exciting day for the Buccaneer organization, and the entire Tampa Bay community, as we welcome back Lovie Smith," Bryan Glazer said in a statement. “Lovie is an accomplished and very well respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career. We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead this team into this new era of Buccaneer football.”
But what the Glazers are hoping is that the new era will look a lot like the old era of Buccaneers football when they were a perennial playoff team and eventual Super Bowl XXXVII champions.
Smith is expected to assemble an impressive coaching staff. Former Cal-Berkeley coach Jeff Tedford, who coached Aaron Rodgers and DeSean Jackson, among others, is expected to be the Bucs' new offensive coordinator and ESPN reported he reached an agreement with the Bucs Thursday. Smith also would like to hire Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator. But they've not asked the Dallas Cowboys for permission to talk to Marinelli, who still is under contract.
Smith, who was fired by the Bears after going 10-6 in 2012, spent the fall sitting on the couch of his home in Lake Forest watching games with a critical eye. That included the Bucs, whose defense has all the critical elements of the Tampa 2 scheme.
""He's very, very excited about them,'' Matt said. "You have an important foundation there. Defensively, Gerald McCoy is the perfect three technique tackle and you hope you get Warren Sapp-like production. What an unbelievable linebacker they have in Lavonte David. He's crazy good. You don't want to do this thing and it's not fair to compare him to Brooks but it's hard not too. You have two very good safeties and of course Darrelle Revis.
Speaking of Revis, there's been plenty of talk that the league's top cover corner won't fit into the Smith's zone schemes. His $16-million per year salary, which can be restructured to make it more salary cap friendly, includes $3-million payouts for the off-season. Would the Bucs part with Revis after only one year and having paid a first-round and potentially third-round picks to the Jets.
Revis extended an olive branch on Twitter Thursday. "I'm excited about the future for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Heard some great things about Lovie Smith & can't wait to finally meet him.''
Perhaps a bigger question is what to do at quarterback? Mike Glennon went 4-9 as a rookie and the Bucs were last in passing yardage.
One option at quarterback was removed Thursday when the Bears signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract. He was set to become a free agent. But there is time to address all that. Time to hire a general manager, who isn't likely to be in place Monday. Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard is the leading candidate.
"I know the fans are impatient,'' Matt said. "But they know he's going to get things going on the right path.''