Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Saying goodbye to Lovie Smith: Bucs fans react

TAMPA — Bo Turner chewed his chicken tenders with a side dish of surprise and frustration.

The 48-year-old Tampa resident has cheered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the beginning. Before Wednesday, he'd seen all nine coaches come and go. Now the 10th, Lovie Smith, was gone after just two seasons and the news was all over the flat screen televisions in the south Tampa Beef O'Brady's where Turner stopped in for lunch Thursday.

He shook his head and expressed what many fellow fans were feeling: Too soon.

"You hire a coach, you've got to give him at least three years," Turner said. "They've got their franchise quarterback (in Jameis Winston), there's no doubt about that. I think he should have gotten another year to see what they do with him."

But it was not to be. Late Wednesday night, the Bucs announced they had fired Smith after a 6-10 season that ended with a four-game losing streak. A dismal performance, sure, but a little more love for Lovie seemed in order, fans said.

"(The Glazers) don't give anyone a chance," said Ashley Chapman, 30, who works at Kahwa Coffee in downtown St. Petersburg. "How are you supposed to build a team if you keep switching people in and out?"

She sighed: "I miss Jon Gruden," the Bucs coach from 2002 to 2008.

Standing outside Kahwa in hard hats and yellow construction vests, German Ortega, 27, and Miguel Pina, 32, chatted about the decision.

"I think that's pretty messed up," Ortega said. "He was doing a great job."

"He picked great rookies, like... Jameis Winston," said Pina, who saw the news on Facebook. "He'd only been around for two years, that's not much time."

The lamenting continued as sports bar stools on both sides of the bay began to fill up.

John Zenger, who stopped in for lunch at Beef O'Brady's, has been a fan of Smith's since he coached the Chicago Bears. The 41-year-old Tampa resident was just as angry when the Bears fired Smith after leading the team to the Super Bowl.

"I think he could have done the same with Jameis," Zenger said.

"He didn't have a chance to do anything or change anything," said 26-year Joey Graber of St. Petersburg during a lunchtime stop at Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Pete. "It takes time to create a whole new thing. He didn't get it."

But others said it was the right decision.

Keith Collier, who heard it on the radio a few hours earlier, approved of the move.

"I think it's a great idea," said 28-year-old Keith Collier. "(Smith) isn't aggressive enough. We need to mix it up. He'd make a great (assistant coach), but a head coach? No way."

For longtime Bucs fan Jerry Bobier who has also seen all of the team's coaches come and go, the news of Smith's sacking went down as smooth as the Miller Lite he was enjoying Thursday at The Press Box sports bar in Tampa.

"I thought he was a nice man, but I don't think he was a great coach," said Bobier, 77, of Tampa. "Listen, it was the most penalized team in the NFL. What does that tell you? It tells me that we need to make a change, and I think the Glazers saw that and they did it."

Bobier said he likes what he sees in the team's offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who had emerged as the in-house frontrunner for the job.

"He seems like he has the insight to make us a winning team," he said. "We should have won three of those last four games. We got a good enough team to win."

Back at Beef O'Brady's, Turner tried to muster that same enthusiasm for his 39th season as a Bucs fan.

"I always go into the new year thinking they're going to get it done," he said. "Somehow this team can't get over the hill. I hope it works out."

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes. Reach Hanna Marcus at [email protected] or (727) 893-8603. Follow @hannaemarcus.

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