Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier confirmed what Lovie Smith has been reluctant to say: the Bucs head coach is taking over the defensive play calling duties this year.
Frazier also says he's fine with the arrangement.
"He's going to be heavily involved as he's always been with our defense and he's going to do the majority of the defensive play-calling,'' Frazier said of SmithThursday. "It really doesn't change my role from a year ago, it really doesn't. My role is to come in and help our defense and help them prepare for every ball game and help our team win. It really doesn't change anything I have to get done.''
Frazier came under some criticism last season when the defense finished 25th overall and allowed 25.6 points per game, the eighth-most in the NFL. He will retain his title as defensive coordinator.
As a defensive coordinator with the Rams and the architect of the Chicago Bears Tampa 2 scheme for nine seasons, Smith has always had a heavy involvement on defense. But last season, after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was put on an indefinite medical leave of absence following a heart procedure, Smith was forced to devote more time with the offensive coaching staff.
Smith had been considering the move following the Bucs 2-14 season. Some changes were made after the Bucs were blasted 56-14 at Atlanta. Frazier was ordered to call plays from the press box the next week.
Ironically, former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter helped design that beating. Koetter is now the Bucs offensive coordinator, allowing Smith to devote more time on defense.
But that meant taking away something from Frazier.
"I'm excited for it,'' Frazier said. "I think with his background and the defense we installed is the one he ran in Chicago so it should be good for our defense, good for our team. I think we're all looking forward to build on the momentum from this off-season and also what happened in that ballgame Monday night.''
Smith's takeover of the defense already is paying off. The Bucs forced three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Alterraun Verner in a 25-11 win against the Bengals Monday.
"There were so many positives that happened in that ball game,'' Frazier said. "The takeaways, the pass rush that we had, the way the guys played and played fast. It's really encouraging and you'd like to develop some consistency going forward. This ballgame, the starters will play a little bit longer so you hope to build on what you did Monday night and carry that over to Sept. 13 and throughout the regular season.''