Lovie Smith needs to loosen up with Bucs offense

Head coach Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at the Georgia Dome Thursday in Atlanta. [Getty Images]
Head coach Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at the Georgia Dome Thursday in Atlanta. [Getty Images]
Published Sept. 21, 2014

Just hours after the Bucs were creamed on national television by the Falcons, there were already calls by some disgruntled fans to put coach Lovie Smith (left) on the hot seat. Let's not be silly. No one is going to be fired after three games. No one deserves to be fired after three games. We should have known that it was going to take a while to fix all the issues that plagued a team that, let me remind you, won only four games last season. However, there are some disturbing trends when it comes to Smith.

In a day when the NFL is all about up-tempo offenses and tons of scoring, Smith still is an old-school, defensive-minded coach. The conservative playcalling and postgame reaction to the Week 2 loss to the Rams indicates Smith still wants to put the game in the hands of his defense and special teams.

When the defense and special teams falter, as they did against St. Louis, the result is a loss to a team that started a backup quarterback.

Speaking of backup quarterbacks, Smith went out and handpicked career backup Josh McCown to be his starter this season. Why McCown? Well, McCown's reputation is that he won't necessarily win games for you by throwing for four scores and 300 yards, but he won't lose games by turning over the ball. That's how defensive-minded coaches think.

Well, through the first three games before injuring his thumb, McCown has been a turnover machine, throwing four awful interceptions — all because of horrible decisions.

"He is a great backup,'' CBS analyst Bill Cowher said on the broadcast Thursday night. "He's not a starter. He was a backup in Chicago and that's what he is, in my mind, right now."

Look, no team is as crummy as the Bucs played Thursday nigh in Atlanta. It was a perfect storm of bad things — a short week, playing on the road, lots of injuries, one bad play snowballing into another, running into a team that could do no wrong — that led to such a lopsided loss.

But it does show the Bucs have lots of work to do to get going in the right direction. No one should be surprised by that. For now, Smith is still the guy to lead that work.

For now.

Most disliked

Interesting topic came up last week on various national radio and television shows. Do you know which team has become the villain of college football?

Florida State. And it's all because of quarterback Jameis Winston. One player has turned much of the country against FSU.

Winston is hardly the only college player getting into trouble off the field, but he's the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the quarterback of the defending national champions.

At a time when he still is being investigated by the university for an alleged sexual assault, Winston stands on a campus table in public and yells out a sexually explicit and demeaning phrase? Then there was the whole incident at Publix when he stole crab legs and then apologized by saying he realized he is in the spotlight and has to be above reproach.

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Guess he forgot about that when he stepped up on that table.

Don't try to sell me that Winston is just a college kid and that these are harmless pranks. I don't hear Jeff Driskel pulling this junk at Florida, or Georgia running back Todd Gurley. I don't hear any of the other FSU players acting up like this.

Either Winston is a bad guy or dumber than a box of rocks. Those are the only two choices there are. He knows all eyes are on him and he still pulls this stuff.

And because of it, he has become an embarrassment for the Seminoles and a reason why most folks across the country want to see FSU lose every time it plays.

Oh, you can bet Winston's NFL draft stock is falling like an anchor, too.

Media tidbits

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have been promoted to NBC's top broadcast team for figure skating. Love it. I'm not a huge figure skating viewer, but I'll watch to hear these two.

MLB Network will televise Derek Jeter's final home game with the Yankees on Thursday at 7 p.m. Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and Tom Verducci will call the game. In addition, current major-league All-Stars, former teammates and athletes from other sports, including Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Jimmie Johnson, will take part in features before and during the game.

Sports Illustrated reports that Gus Johnson will step down as Fox's No. 1 soccer broadcaster. Johnson said a hectic schedule full of college football and basketball as well as a recent engagement to be married just wouldn't allow him the time needed to call soccer well. Johnson still might call some soccer, he just won't be the top voice for the 2018 World Cup.

Three things that popped into my head

1. It's sappy and some scenes seem staged, but I don't care. The new Gatorade commercial with Derek Jeter hanging out with fans around Yankee Stadium and saying his goodbye made me, uh … What!? I got something in my eyes, that's all.

2. Which team would you rather be: the Tigers, who are about to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season with no world title, or the Red Sox, who are going to finish last for the second time in three years but have a World Series win in the middle of that?

3. The last time the Rays were below .500 at this late date (Sept. 21), players such as Greg Norton, Jorge Velandia and Josh Wilson were in the starting lineup.

tom jones' two cents