In the End, It was Only Lovie

Doug Pensinger

Lovie Smith was the right choice for the Bucs - it really only could have been him.

Back to the Future. When the Bucs tumbled to 0-8 and it was an ugly spiral to that winless record, his name had to have cross the mind of the Glazers. When it became evident that the fanbase would not accept the current regime's return, he had to be the go to name.

Lovie Smith and the Bucs were always on the collision course. In the end, he is exactly what is needed. He really was the only choice the Bucs' could make.

Sure, there are plenty of fans who wanted an offensive minded coach. Lovie's teams certainly aren't known to light up the scoreboard. But consider this - Ken Whisenhunt - everyone's default choice - was six games under .500 as head coach at Arizona. Gary Kubiak was three games under .500.

The Bucs weren't going with an unproven coordinator or college guy with no NFL head coaching experience.

Lovie had 3 losing seasons in 9 years with the Bears. He took Chicago to two NFC title games, winning one. He was 18 games over .500. He went to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their QB. Yes, THAT Rex Grossman.

At the very least, the Bucs fans can expect their team to be in contention for a playoff spot year in and year out. Remember what that felt like Bucs fans?

What the Glazers desperately needed is stability and consistency. They knew they blew the last two coaching hires so they needed some familiarity with the new guy and reconnect with what they did right in the early days. They needed to fix one of the worst mistakes they ever made in firing Tony Dungy - a coach beloved in this town. They sold their soul for that one Super Bowl championship and the Bucs have been in purgatory ever since.

No one can blame them - 2002 was a magical season that no Bucs fan will ever forget. Yet it was over a decade ago. The Bucs have paid their price. Now they need to make amends.

They want their fans to care again, to complain about not winning "enough" instead of not winning at all. The Bucs had fallen to the point of irrelevancy in the bay area.

Tony Dungy wasn't coming back to football. He's happy with his life on network television and doing the speaking tours for his faith. Lovie was always regarded as a disciple of Tony and his teams had the sustained success that Dungy had. He won games despite having Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Caleb Hanie and Brian Griese as their quarterback.

With a real NFL QB, Jay Cutler, Lovie was 39-28 with two winning seasons and a trip to the NFC title game.

Lovie brings the respect of a true NFL head coach. Assistants want to come work for him. Free agents want to come play for him. Toes may be on the line but no one has to shout it or roll their eyes when they hear it.

But what about the offense? Consider this Bucs fans: Do you truly believe the Bucs can acquire enough offensive firepower to compete with New Orleans, Atlanta and the other NFC powerhouses in one off-season?

The Bucs' quickest path to the playoffs is through their defense. Most of the talent on this football team is on that side of the football. He has the running back in place and top notch wide receivers. Do they need a QB? Sure.

But considering the guys Lovie has won with in the past - it's not the inconceivable that if he has to go with Glennon, he can win with him.

But defense doesn't win in the NFL anymore right? 8 of the 12 playoff participants are in the top ten of the league in scoring defense.

Carolina just won the NFC South not on the powerhouse offense of the Panthers, but their devastating top 2 ranked defense.

If Lovie and either Rod Marinelli or Leslie Frazier (or both?) can turn the Bucs defense into the top five unit we think they can be then you can work on finding that solution on offense.

Play Dungy Ball until you can find your quarterback. Heck, the Panthers played Dungy Ball all season and they have Cam frickin' Newton.

Jeff Tedford has an excellent reputation as a play caller and getting the most out of his players. While many of his quarterbacks flamed out in the NFL - it was his coaching that got the most out of those players at Cal and had NFL Scouts drooling over his prospects.

His offenses brought multiple top notch RBs into the league as well. It should make Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey smile a bit.

Tedford is also known to tailoring his gameplans to what he talent he has.

We'll see. But for the most part - Tampa Bay has a respected head coach with a track record for winning.

That's all any Bucs fan should really want. Get into the tournament - no matter how you get there - and take your best shot. Lovie Smith will consistently get Tampa Bay there.

It's a great day in Tampa Bay.

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