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Bucs move fast, get right man in Smith

That didn't take long.

New Bucs coach Lovie Smith was hired so fast that his first order of business might be to help Greg Schiano carry the last of his boxes out to his car over at One Buc Place.

The Glazers' extensive coaching search didn't seem to have been very extensive. What did they make, one phone call?

Sounds like their entire interview consisted of: "When can you start?"

And you know what? That's just fine.

If you believe you have the right man for the job, why waste your time kicking the tires of a bunch of other guys you really have no interest in hiring?

Smith was a hot commodity. Other teams were sniffing around his door. It would have been a shame if the Bucs lost out on him just for the sake of interviewing a bunch of Joe Coordinators you didn't want in the first place.

And, really, if you've done your homework and talked to the right people, the interview is merely a formality.

This went down so fast that the Bucs, you would have to believe, had Smith in mind well before the season ended and well before they handed Schiano the pink slip.

Nothing wrong with that.

Remember the last time when it took a month of playing footsie with Chip Kelly and then having to settle for Schiano? By the time it was all done, it was too late for Schiano to put together the staff he wanted.

Besides, it's not like Smith has to ask for directions around Tampa Bay.

He worked here. Coached here. Lived here.

He knows the organization. He knows the community. He knows the owners.

And they know him.

Smith and the Bucs aren't being introduced to one another. They're getting reacquainted.

He comes with a strong resume that includes a Super Bowl appearance, as well as the endorsement of Tony Dungy, which is about as good as you can get when you're listing references.

Plus, sitting at home the past season, Smith has kept a watchful eye on the NFL and, of late, the Bucs. He knows the strengths and weaknesses, what is working and what needs to be fixed.

He knows defense, and this franchise's DNA has always been defense. And, at the moment, most of the building blocks are on defense.

This, too, is encouraging: Smith probably could have had his pick of a few jobs and he chose the Bucs.

So what are the concerns?

For starters, you might call him a retread. I would call him experienced.

And seeing as how the past two Bucs coaches had no experience as an NFL head coach, Smith's nine years as head coach of the Bears looks pretty good, especially because he won more than he lost.

You might think he's a soft players' coach. Yes, players like him, but he's a lot tougher than you realize. He isn't Raheem Morris. One Buc Place is not going to turn into a country club. Smith is Dungy with an edge.

You might argue that he's a defensive coach in an offensive league.

And I would say … um, okay, you might have a point there.

If I had my druthers, I would have rather seen an offensive guru such as Bill O'Brien or Ken Whisenhunt get a crack at this job. But if Smith can bring in a sharp offensive mind to run the offense (and there's optimistic talk that former Cal coach Jeff Tedford could be coming with Smith) then there's less reason to fret.

Smith will assemble a strong staff, he'll have the respect of the players and give this franchise an element of professionalism that might have been missing in recent seasons.

But let's face it, a mere change of coaches isn't suddenly going to turn the Bucs into a playoff contender. If this team was any good and had enough talent, they wouldn't be firing and hiring coaches every two to three years.

Smith needs to plug some holes on defense and get the offensive line straightened out.

But his biggest challenge will be to find a quarterback. Maybe he'll bring in his old buddy, Jay Cutler, from Chicago or land another free agent. Maybe he'll draft someone with the seventh overall pick. Maybe he'll stick with Mike Glennon.

Whatever he decides, he needs to get the quarterback right or this thing will never work.

Wednesday was the start of a new year, and a new era in Bucs history. Few thought the Bucs would make a hire this fast.

Yes, it was fast. But it was good, too.

Lovie Smith, center, greeting Derrick Brooks after an interception, was the Bucs’ linebackers coach on Tony Dungy’s staff from 1996-2000.

Times files (1999)

Lovie Smith, center, greeting Derrick Brooks after an interception, was the Bucs’ linebackers coach on Tony Dungy’s staff from 1996-2000.

Bucs move fast, get right man in Smith 01/01/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 9:22am]

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