Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Plenty of love for Lovie Smith among Bucs players

TAMPA

Lovie Smith wasn't available Tuesday afternoon at One Buc Place. He was probably trying to see which name — Blake, Teddy or Johnny — looked best on a nameplate above a Bucs locker.

No matter. There were plenty of others who spent the afternoon bragging about the new Bucs coach.

Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and newly-demoted quarterback Mike Glennon went on and on about Smith. Lavonte David called him cool. Even kicker Connor Barth was saying how great it was to have Smith in town.

Now try not to get too excited. If I remember correctly, when Greg Schiano was hired as head coach of the Bucs, the players said swell things about him, too.

The difference? This time, you get the feeling that the players actually believe what they're saying.

The Lovie Era has begun and there's plenty of Lovie in the air.

"He's everything I thought he would be and more," Jackson said. "A smart man, you can tell. Very well-planned. He does everything with a purpose. Every minute in this building is going to be useful for us and it's going to make us better as men as well football players. … I've heard nothing but good things and I can see why."

That seems to be the general consensus now that Schiano is gone and Smith is here.

And now they have a coach with NFL head coaching experience who isn't looking for respect or even demanding it. He already has it.

He isn't a yeller. He isn't a madman. But there's no question of who is in charge. Ask Mike Williams.

Yet, when players talk about Smith, you expect to hear harps and see floating hearts.

"Quiet guy, laid-back type guy, cool," David said. "He's all about respect. If you give respect, you're going to receive respect. It's all about being a professional."

Professional. That's the word that comes up a lot.

Looking back, it's easy to pick on Schiano. He was a college coach with college ways. Demanding practices. Toes on the line. The whole kneel-down thing. Every time you turned around, you were reminded of Rutgers because either Schiano mentioned Rutgers or the Bucs were signing someone from there.

You couldn't help but wonder what veterans such as Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson and Carl Nicks — who had played for other organizations and coaches, players who knew what NFL teams were supposed to look like — thought of Schiano's ways.

Bucs players talked about Smith on Tuesday, but in a way, they seemed to be talking about Schiano, too.

"It's really different," David said. "You get a different vibe from everyone. We feel like the situation is better."

"It's just different around here," Barth said, "and I think we're going to have a big year."

"So far," Glennon said, "the whole mood around here is positive."

Perhaps now is a good time to point out that it's April. Of course everything is positive. In April, every team thinks it can go 16-0. Every team is clearing out space for the Lombardi Trophy.

Funny how that good vibe disappears when Drew Brees is carving up your secondary for 400 yards and five touchdowns.

Ultimately, that's what got Schiano. When the Bucs won, Schiano was bringing much-needed discipline. When they were losing, he was an out-of-control dictator who was out of his league. They lost too much and the memories of Schiano are not good ones.

And, so, descriptions of Smith's style and personality eventually will be determined by wins and losses. Win, and he will have quiet confidence and will be called a players' coach. Lose, and he will lack passion and be considered a pushover.

Maybe now is also a good time to point out how much work remains to fix a team that won four games last season.

They still have a journeyman quarterback with a career record of 16-22 as a starter. They had the worst offense in the NFL last season and they hired a defensive-minded head coach and an offensive coordinator who has never played nor coached in the NFL.

This won't be fixed overnight and maybe not even next season.

"Our goal is to win a Super Bowl and come here to work and practice and let's get better every day to get to that goal," Martin said. "It's not like they're telling you this and they don't believe it. They are telling you this because they do believe you can do it.

"That's a good vibe to have around the organization."

And, you know, when Martin said that, you got the feeling he really did believe it.

Will it happen? Not so fast. But, for the Bucs, believing — and more important believing in the head coach — is a pretty good place to start.

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