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Lovie's career snapshot

A brief look at Lovie's career as a Head Coach at the NFL level.

Stats are for losers, unless they show I'm awesome.
Stats are for losers, unless they show I'm awesome.
Dilip Vishwanat
*NEWS FLASH* The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired former Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith to be our next Head Coach. Wait, that's been announced already? Well then let's dive in and look at how Lovie fared as an NFL head coach. I won't be evaluating the talent he had or roster construction, but just taking a basic look at his teams over the 9 years of his head coaching career.

I'll get the credits out of the way first. Numbers and reference material are from Pro Football Reference.

Lovie took over in 2004 for the Bears and immediately produced a 5-11 record, hardly the fairy tale start anyone wanted. While he had a decent rush defense, his offense was 32nd in points and yards and defense was in the bottom third. This would be the worst year that Lovie would face as the Bears head coach.

The next year, the Bears went 11-5, won the division, and made the playoffs, losing their first playoff game. After this dismal first year and a good leap in Year 2, Lovie and the Bears went 13-3 winning their division again and making the Super Bowl, ultimately losing to the Dungy-led Colts. Great progression and it's what most teams want to see with new coaches and players. Establish a base, make improvements, make a run.

Then Lovie produced some "Gruden-like" years after this going 7-9, 9-7, 7-9 over the 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons. This led to an 11-5 year, a division win, and Lovie's last playoff appearance. After this run, Lovie went 8-8 and followed that with a 10-6 record that was good enough to get him fired.

Over 9 years Lovie went 81-63 (.562) and puts him 9th among active coaches (assistants, coordinators and head coaches) ahead of such luminaries like Mike Shanahan, John Fox, Jason Garrett and Marvin Lewis. He won 3 division titles, made the playoffs 3 years (under a 1 Wild Card system mostly) and has a 3-3 playoff record. They aren't Hall of Fame numbers, but with a 6 win season in Tampa next year, he jumps into the Top 45 of head coaches in all-time wins.

His teams were defensive-skewed by a large margin. The best year for total offense under Lovie was 2006 whent hey were 15th in yards and 2nd in points. His teams did have top 10 seasons in rushing with rushing ranks of 8tha nd 9th by yards (2005 and 2011) but never hit the top 10 with passing ranks. Guess Rex Grossman explains that pretty well.

Defensively he was in the top 10 by yards allowed 4 times and was top 4 in points allowed 4 times. His teams featured a strong mixture of good run defense and a ball-hawking pass defense, finishing in the top 6 in picks 6 times in his tenure. Minus a 2009 outlier, his teams always finished in the top half of the league in regards to takeaways vs. giveaways.

All this means is, well, nothing. The 2014 Bucs aren't the 2004-2012 Bears. But it's easy to see where Smith's teams excelled and where work is needed. He has taken steps to address his deficincies with the Jeff Tedford hire and looks to build on his strong defensive tendencies. Teams and fan bases are often worried about bringing in tired re-treads with poor records (I'm looking at you Shanahan) but Lovie comes in with no real skeletons and at worst an average track record. The numbers don't always tell the story, but they at least paint a picture that we can hang some hope on.