COMMENTARY | Lovie Smith was the only right choice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

January 3, 2014 

TAMPA

Since the Monday Massacre at One Buc Place Lovie Smith was the only way to go.

It's why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the interview process for a new head coach before the blood was dry on the corpses of Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik.

Lovie is the only logical person to lead the Bucs at this time.

So it was no surprise that it took the Bucs only four days to announce Lovie as their new coach after Schiano was axed on Monday.

The Glazier family needs credibility before Raymond James Stadium becomes a ghost town.

Lovie brings that. He has the blessing of Tony Dungy and every former Buccaneer who brought glory to the franchise.

It won't matter anymore if you didn't play for Rutgers.

Lovie will bring calmness to a franchise that was a soap opera.

The Bucs needed a name. Dungy and Jon Gruden were not available and Lovie Smith resonated on the rafters at RJS where Lee Roy Selmon and others live in infamy.

He doesn't have to sell himself to the players, which was an obstacle Schiano never cleared.

"The creditability factor is going to be there right from the beginning," Dungy said. "He's not going to have to convince them that this is a winning formula, they're saying that and so you're over that hurdle."

Lovie knows how to turn doormats into flying carpets.

He was an assistant to Dungy in 1996 when the Bucs were a laughingstock on the road to respectability and an eventual Super Bowl title.

In nine years as head coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie won three division titles, went to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl compiling an 81-63 record. He is one of only eight active coaches with 80 victories.

Under Smith, the Bears defense was one of the best in the NFL and made life miserable for quarterbacks who like to travel by air, which should serve the Bucs well in the NFC Drew Brees South division.

The wrap on Lovie is that his offenses never struck fear into opponents.

Since he inherits a Bucs offense that ranked last in the NFL it's a reason to have some trepidation.

That could be somewhat misleading. He did go to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback which is like asking Mr. Magoo to be your driver at

the Indy 500.

His offensive lines at Chicago were never up to NFL standards and he had to deal with substandard quarterbacks until he got Jay Cutler.

Despite the NFL being an offensive fueled league, eight of this year's 12 playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense.

"If the other team can't score it can't win" still rings loud even in a sport that boasts Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

Smith is expected to hire former University of California head coach Jeff Tedford as offensive coordinator. He has a reputation of being an offensive wizard, but never coached in the NFL, which is reason to feel anxious. But who else was out there?

The Glazers needed a former NFL head coach after firing Dungy and Gruden and then asking fans to swallow Raheem Morris and Schiano.

The Bucs could've gone with Ken Whisenhunt and Gary Kubiak, two former NFL head coaches with reputations as offensive experts.

No one would've complained, but neither showed Lovie's consistency for winning. Whisenhunt had the luxury of Kurt Warner at quarterback when he took Arizona to the Super Bowl.

Bucs fans are hoping Cutler's resigning with Chicago on Thursday might open the path for Johnny Manziel to become a Buccaneer.

Now wouldn't that be nice.

It's time to dream. With Lovie anything is possible.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056.

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