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Smith says Bucs future will be bright with coordinator, draft

Published Dec. 29, 2014

By 11 o'clock Monday morning, when Lovie Smith gathered his team for the final time this season, four NFL head coaches and two general managers had already been fired, including the man who replaced him just two years ago with the Chicago Bears.

None of them had suffered through a worse season than Smith's first with the Bucs, which ended with a 2-14 record.

"The football season didn't turn out exactly the way we wanted it to,'' Smith said. "There's no way around that. I hadn't envisioned a 2-14 season. What I did know is that when you come in, you know sometimes you have to first establish a foundation, which I feel like we've done. You do have to crawl before you walk. You have to fight through adversity to really find out exactly what we have and we were able to do that. We know our football team a lot better right now. Our future is bright.''

Smith has always been one to walk on the sunny side of the street and the biggest reason for optimism is the Bucs own the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, which they most likely will use to select a quarterback.

While some teams were firing, the Bucs are going to be hiring an offensive coordinator to replace Jeff Tedford. Smith's first swing at an offensive coordinator and quarterback didn't go so well. He signed Josh McCown to a 2-year, $10-million contract and he finished as the lowest-rated quarterback in the league.

Meanwhile, Tedford was placed on an indefinite medical leave after a surgical procedure until his was granted a release from his contract a few weeks ago to become the head coach of the CFL British Columbia Lions.

Why should Bucs fans think Smith will get the offensive coordinator and quarterback right this time?

"When something doesn't happen exactly how you want it to, that doesn't say quit or don't go with what you believe,'' Smith said. "It just says do a little bit better next time and that's what we're going to do this time.

"There are circumstances that come into play when you say get it right. I got the job here based on us winning a lot of football games (in Chicago) with the coordinators we had. Sometimes, things happen where you have to go a different direction. That's what happened with our last coordinator. Anybody can get sick. Things come up at any time. I think you look at the record, and I think they feel pretty confident we'll do it and get it right this time.''

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One of the candidates for the job could be Marc Trestman, who replaced Smith as head coach of the Chicago Bears until he was fired with general manager Phil Emery Monday. McCown had his best season under Trestman, throwing 13 touchdowns and only one interception as a backup to Jay Cutler in 2013.

"I think Marc is an outstanding coach and an outstanding person and has a great sense of offensive football and especially quarterback play,'' McCown said. "I played my best football of my career under him so obviously I'm going to have good things to say.''

Smith said he already has begun the process of evaluating candidates for offensive coordinator and wants to hire the position as soon as possible. "At the same time, not rush it,'' Smith said. "We have time. So I'm going to take my time and use this opportunity to talk to as many people as I possibly can.''

Smith said the new offensive coordinator would be instrumental in evaluating players, including the top quarterbacks who could declare for the draft – Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

"When you're down here, you want to get players who make a difference,'' Smith said. "Last year's draft, there were a lot of players who made an immediate impact in the NFL and I hope that's the case this year, especially the guys at the top where we're drafting.''

Smith said the Bucs also will be active again in free agency, even though they didn't get much production from players such as Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and left tackle Anthony Collins.

"You look back to free agency. No it didn't go the way we had planned,'' Smith said. "Some of our acquisitions didn't turn out exactly the way we wanted. But it starts with the coaching staff, we didn't do as good of a job as we will this coming year. You can say we failed in all those areas. Our record says that. So we're all taking credit, it was all on our backs. But that has nothing to do about what we're going to do moving forward.''


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