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Lovie Smith's conservative nature gives the Buccaneers no margin for error

Lovie Smith's coaching is not losing games for the Buccaneers, but it's not giving any margin for error to his players, either.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-2 to start the 2014 NFL Season, and have lost in dramatic fashion in both instances, coming up one score short of the Panthers and Rams en route to their winless start.

And while head coach Lovie Smith isn't wholly responsible for the team's 0-2 record, his conservative nature has put his injured, adapting-to-new-schemes personnel in a position where they have little to no margin for error, and they haven't been able to stay within those margins.

A conservative gameplan, by its very nature, is intended to avoid mistakes and slow the game down, giving the team dictating the conservative tempo a chance to win by controlling the clock and holding steady on defense.

So when a quarterback makes ill-advised throws under pressure, or a special teams blocker whiffs on his protection, or a multi-millionaire free safety drops an interception, the "avoid mistakes" portion of the conservative gameplan is thrown out of the window. And that puts the Buccaneers on thin ice.

The team hasn't been as bad as many fans believe. Josh McCown has made three too many "YOLO" throws, but has otherwise been an efficient leader of the offense. The defense hasn't put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks with a four-man rush, yet has managed to keep games low scoring and limit big plays.

But when the head coach is punting on every fourth-and-one, playing for field goals on third-and-five in the red zone, and generally playing without any sort of aggression, any mistake becomes a huge, game-changing moment.

The Philadelphia Eagles turned the ball over three times in the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, but the explosive Chip Kelly offense and the aggressive nature of their team gave them breathing room to recover and turn the game around in a hurry. But the Buccaneers don't have that luxury. They're on the opposite end of the spectrum.

If the Bucs are able to avoid mistakes, they'll be in every game this season. That's just the nature of a Lovie Smith-coached team. But the failures, mistakes and missed opportunities that have occurred through the first eight quarters of this young season have been far too much to handle in such a conservative system.

And that ultimately rests on the shoulders of the head coach, who must prepare his players to protect the ball and avoid breakdowns if he wants to win games this season. Otherwise, things will get out of hand in a hurry in Tampa Bay, as the team continues to lose talent on both sides of the ball due to injury, and lose confidence with every passing defeat.