TAMPA — Six games and two blowout losses into his first season as the Bucs coach, Lovie Smith is pleading for patience while recognizing it is in short supply with Tampa Bay fans.
Smith said Monday it was "disheartening" to watch the Bucs trail the Falcons 56-0 and the Ravens 38-0 in a span of three weeks. But he insists that while those performances didn't show it, the Bucs are getting better and asked for more time to get it right.
The Bucs are 1-5, tied with the Redskins for the worst record in the NFC, and are last in the league in scoring defense.
"I would say first off, I'm disappointed, too," Smith said when asked to address the fans. "I would say also, it's like when you're in a game, you don't crown anyone the winner of that game during the game. We're disappointed right now. But let's let it all play out. And yeah, I've said that before but the game isn't over yet. Give us time. We'll continue to get guys back."
The Bucs were missing two starters in the secondary Sunday — cornerback Johnthan Banks (neck) and safety Dashon Goldson (ankle). The Ravens exploited their absence as quarterback Joe Flacco threw five touchdown passes in the first 16:03, an NFL record for fastest five TD passes in a game, in the Bucs' 48-17 loss.
Banks and Goldson are expected back after the bye Oct. 26 when the Bucs host the Vikings.
"There's a lot of football left to go," Smith said. "If we were 6-0 right now, would you start buying your Super Bowl ticket? You have to just hold on a little bit is what I would say.
"And I don't listen to talk radio but I don't have to. I know what's out there, we're all disappointed right now. But I'm going to keep going."
Smith was part of turnarounds on coaching staffs as an assistant in Tampa Bay in 1996 and with the Bears when he took over as head coach in 2004. As a linebackers coach on Tony Dungy's staff in '96, the Bucs started 0-5 and were 1-8 until winning five of their final seven. The Bears started 1-5 in Smith's first season as head coach and finished 5-11. The next season, the Bears went 11-5 and won the NFC North.
"I think experience helps you a lot," Smith said. "I have been in this situation before a few different times and I just believe in what we're going to do. But when you start off, there's a reason why there is something new. You do have to crawl before you walk. We didn't want to do it as much and part of the master plan wasn't to be in this situation right now. But that's normally what you do when you start something new. It's not this ready right away. You have to build that foundation and that's what we're doing right now.
"I said last week we are a better football team. That game (Sunday) didn't say that. But we're doing some good things, some better things, behind the scenes and hopefully we're going to put it together and we're going to see that in the games."
Bucs players will participate in practices that will resemble training camp today and Wednesday then get Thursday through Sunday off.
"I don't know if there's ever a bad time for the bye week," Smith said. "Of course, you have a chance to get a couple more players healed up. We've had a few injuries. We've got some young players. So it's a chance to go back to some more training camp practices and tighten up on some of the things we've seen our football team continue to do.
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"The way we played (Sunday), it's good for us to hurt for two weeks. When you have that driving your preparation and your practice and all that."
While promising changes following Sunday's loss, Smith said "it's not like we're going to get another team or change our coaching staff.
"The next game, we're going to do it again, we're going to come out to Raymond James Stadium in a couple of weeks against the Minnesota Vikings and I'm saying it again, we're working to put a better product on the football field," Smith said. "Eventually, that will come true."