With plenty of new faces on the sideline and on the field, this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team is eager to erase the memory of last year’s disappointing 4-12 season under Greg Schiano.
Lovie Smith, who signed a five-year deal in January, takes the reins in hopes of steadying the ship.
“Lovie is an accomplished and very well respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career,” Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer noted earlier this year. “We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead this team into this new era of Buccaneer football.”
Smith returns to the organization he began his professional coaching career with in 1996. A member of the coaching staff for five years the first time around, Smith was the linebackers coach through 2000 and helped develop the Tampa 2 defense under head coach Tony Dungy.
Smith notched his first playoff victory as a coach in 2006, leading the Bears to a 27-24 win over the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. The Bears subsequently defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, advancing to Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Fla., where they were beaten 29-17 by an Indianapolis Colts team coached by Dungy, his friend and mentor.
Named NFL Coach of the Year by The Associated Press in 2006, Smith was fired by the Bears in 2012 following a 10-6 season. He produced an 84-66 record in his nine years with the Bears organization, winning three NFC North titles (2005, 2006 and 2010) in addition to the Super Bowl appearance.
Having spent last fall watching a lot of football from his home in Chicago, Smith is happy to be back in Florida. The veteran coach liked what he saw in minicamp and is looking forward to getting the season underway Sept. 7 against the 2013 NFC South division champion Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
"I think we’re going to be a good football team," Smith said on Buccaneers.com. “We had a successful offseason program, but now it’s about that next step. [We're] putting a group together, getting into pads, and let’s just see how it turns out, see how good we can be. We’ve got to be ready. The Carolina Panthers, division champs, are coming in and they’re feeling pretty good about coming down to Raymond James, and we’ve got to do something about that.”
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