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Can the Buccaneers get to the Super Bowl

Lovie Smith's been there before, but that does that mean the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can make it to the Super Bowl again?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At a season ticket holder's meeting, Lovie Smith had a very succinct response to a fan, and that response helped substantiate my hopes as a Buccaneers fan.

One fan asked, "How will you tool your offense to compete in the high octane NFC South?" The coach reiterated his mantra of a running game on offense but then added, "I'll take our defense against any offense in the division."

Smith also went on to describe the defense as "The one of Warren Sapp. Of Derrick Brooks. Of the Super Bowl champion Bucs of the past."

Before coming to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith was the head coach of the Chicago Bears. His tenure took nine years, and Smith was fired after not making the playoffs but finished on a winning note, a double digit winning record. 10 wins was not enough to get into the playoffs because he lost the divisional tie breaker to the Minnesota Vikings who shared a 10 - 6 record in 2012. In order to make it to the playoffs, Lovie needs to win the division and his way will be through the defense.

Through free agency, Lovie added two defensive linemen in tackle Clinton McDonald and end Michael Johnson.  That flips end Adrian Clayborn to the other side of the line. Releasing star cornerback Darrelle Revis was a monetary move in order to bolster other roster spots, such as with a Michael Johnson. Theya also signed Alterraun Verner, the best cornerback in the free agent market for about $10 million less than what Revis was set to make.

With Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David already on board as well as hard-hitting Dashon Goldson, Lovie has stacked the defense with more weapons. He is training his defensemen to always look for turnovers as well as pick up any loose balls. Lovie values turnovers, then points allowed as a measure of his defense. So I delved into those stats in the following table.

Lovie Smith Defense in Chicago



Def Pts Rank

Pt Differential

.500 record or better










Yes, Playoffs





Yes, SB loss




















Yes, Playoffs













(Stats from

A Lovie coached defense averages 19.17 points per game. If we produced that average for the 2013 season, then our defense would rank 7th best. Last season, the Bucs' defense, in respect to points, ranked 21st overall. And with the new additions to the defensive line, we fans should expect a better performance than last year.

Free agency is where immediate needs are addressed. Lovie improved the defensive line by adding two players of impact. On offense, he replaced aging offensive linemen with younger ones on a better contract for the organization in left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Then the Bucs added specialists in tight end Brandon Myers and quarterback Josh McCown. The guard positions were not addressed well in the free agency period, unless you believe Oniel Cousins was supposed to be a major impact player.

The draft is where a team finds talent to project in the long run.  Surprisingly, all were offensive picks.

2014 TB Bucs Draft





Mike Evans



Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ)



Charles Sims



Kadeem Edwards



Kevin Pamphile



Robert Herron


There is this quote that says, "I'm a believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have."  With the addition of TE Myers in free agency along with the drafting of ASJ to add to current tight ends Tim Wright and Luke Stocker, the Bucs created depth.  Luke Stocker coming into preseason and proving he is the Bucs' best inline blocker as a tight end and ASJ showing he is ahead of Tim Wright in that same aspect had pushed Wright down the depth chart.  Call it kismet, call it karma, or call it luck, but having such depth when guard Carl Nicks decided he could no longer play football helped to land New England guard Logan Mankins in a trade.

Going into the regular season, the offensive line has replaced four out of the five starting positions. If you bring in a fullback into the backfield, then the fullback can help with whoever will be playing right guard.  Lovie can now establish a run game like he commented to the season ticket holders. Factor in an up-tempo offense so that the opposing defense cannot substitute in fresh legs on the line, then the Bucs may generate more rushing opportunities to exploit in the second half of games.

Let us not forget the acquisition of veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who has played under Lovie Smith before in Chicago. McCown's scoring TD to INT ratio last year was 13:1. Second year quarterback Mike Glennon posted a 19:9 TD-to-INT ratio in his rookie season. Both these quarterbacks share one common theme: they both do not turn over the ball as often as possible. That trait is pertinent in a Lovie Smith coached team.  Do not give the opposing team more chances to score upon you.

In 2013, the Bucs posted a -101 points differential. In Lovie's last year of coaching, his team posted a positive 98 point differential. With the promise of an explosive defensive line with the free agent acquisition to improve the line immediately, Lovie has put his stamp on this team. In the third preseason game this year, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scooped up a fumble and ran it for a touchdown. That event reflected what Lovie wants from his defensive team. The third preseason game is the best barometer of what to expect for the regular season. The Bucs' first team only played in the first half.  At half time, the score was Bucs 24, Bills 0. Delve into it a bit more and we see the following: Bucs' defense 7, Bills 0. This could be a precursor for something great.

I am loving on Lovie. Lovie knows how to get to the big dance. He has had the year off to reflect and contemplate.  And on his defensive palette are two superstar players in Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David. Good players in Dashon Goldson and a maturing Mason Foster.  Add in the youngings of Mark Barron and Jonthan Banks to be groomed into a Lovie Smith coached defense, then you have to be thinking that Lovie Smith fell into a pot of gold in Tampa. Well, at least that is how I envision it. And since I am a bit of a homer, I have visions of Lovie lifting the Lombardi.  I like the sound of that, "Lovie lifting the Lombardi."

Here is the Lovie four step to get to the dance:

Smith wrapped up his Q&A [at the season ticket holder event] with this: "You have four crucial phases to become relevant in the NFL. First is defense. You have to have a solid defense in the league if you want to compete for championships. Second is special teams, we'll win many games this season with our special teams play. Third is offense, we can have a productive offense with a strong running game and the ability to take shots outside. The final piece is you - the fans. You are really part of the defense. You have to cheer loudly when we're on defense and be as quiet as you can when we're on offense. If you're there, you can make the difference. I know a lot of you have already renewed your season tickets and thats great. We need you. For those of you who haven't yet....get on the train. We're going to make it worth it. We know we haven't been filling our end on the football field but that will change. "

Hopefully, that change ends with the ‘lifting of the Lombardi'.