Commentary | Lovie Smith says defense alone can bring Buccaneers 10-win season

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 7, 2014 

TAMPA

In his year of exile from the NFL, Lovie Smith fought off flesh-eating monkeys in Costa Rica, searched his soul in a deep excavation to find self-improvement and watched hundreds of football games.

"It made me a better person," Smith said Monday when he was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Buccaneer fans hope it will make their team better. Smith stayed away from any negativity regarding the team's current personnel, though he might have rattled some fragile fans with some of his comments.

Some might consider it heresy that Smith told a group of reporters after his press conference that you can win 10 games without an offense in the NFL.

The Bucs had no offense in 2013, ranking last in the NFL, and some have argued it was because they had no quarterback.

But this coach inspires hope.

"If you have great defense, create turnovers and great special teams, you can win 10 games. From there, the quarterback comes in," he said.

Smith was fired by the Chicago Bears in 2012 after he went 10-6 in his ninth year.

A lot of coaches get raises after going 9-7, and if you look at his last three years there you can argue he should've gotten an extension. He was 28-14 when he had his starting quarterback.

"My next job has always been my best job," Smith said. "When you get fired on a 10-6 team that's not saying you don't know what you are doing. When you get fired and your last three seasons are 12 wins and an NFC championship game, eight wins when you lost your quarterback when you are 7-3 and then going 10-6, that's not saying let me change everything you've got this stuff all screwed up."

Smith disagrees with those who say football in 2013 with high-scoring, pass-happy offenses is significantly different since he took over Chicago in 2004.

"Look at the power teams in the NFC: Carolina, Seattle (San Francisco and New Orleans). I don't think it has changed an awful lot," Smith said. "Everybody assumes we have to throw the ball 50 times a game and if our passing yards are up, we will be OK. That's not how it is. It's about running and winning the turnover ratio."

He was not definitive about Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and even had good things to say about the offensive line, which was his toughest task of the day.

When asked if it would be good for Glennon to have some competition, Smith said it's good to have competition at every position.

So you get the picture. This wasn't a day to bash Glennon or do anything to diminish his confidence. And right now, he is the only quarterback Smith can talk about.

"There is a lot expected out of the quarterback position," Smith said. "We haven't sat down and hard-evaluated our players yet. We are going to get our staff in and start that process.

"You need a guy who is mobile to buy time, but look in the league. There are quarterbacks leading their team who are not as mobile as the others. Do I believe you need a hall of fame guy at that position to win in the NFL? No, but the better the quarterback the more games you can win."

The biggest question surrounding Smith is his decision to hire former University of California head coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator even though Tedford has no NFL experience.

Smith doesn't see any problem there.

"I don't have a concern about him not having NFL experience. There are a lot of pro-style offenses in college, and Jeff had that," Smith said. "I am very comfortable with him. His knowledge as a football coach was more important than the knowledge that he hasn't been in the NFL."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reachedat 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at@ADellSports.

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