For the second time this season, Lovie Smith had an opportunity to coach with an aggressive winner’s mentality, insisting that his team step on the throat of a team that they led and had reeling heading into the half, and for the second time this season, Smith deferred, insisting that the offense go into a shell and be happy with their lead rather than building on it. When asked about why he didn’t make a stronger effort to score with nearly 90 seconds remaining in the half and 3 timeouts in his pocket, Smith implied that only something bad would come from such an aggressive approach, similar rhetoric to what he used after the loss to the St. Louis Rams last year.
Smith has been strongly criticized for his conservative ways and unwillingness to change, and statements like this will do nothing to disparage those criticisms. Worse yet, the mentality behind those comments is more likely to detriment the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than to push the team to be anything more than a cellar dweller of the NFC South as Smith plays not to lose rather than to win; to merely survive instead of thrive. Teams often take on the attitudes and personalities of their head coaches which, in this case, would not be ideal for the building Buccaneers.
It is said that complacency is the enemy of success; comfort the enemy of growth. Adaptability and perseverance are keys to success, as well as flexibility and the ability to learn and grow from past experiences, both good and bad. Unfortunately, so far, Smith has shown none of these traits, particularly in his time as the head coach and defensive play caller for Tampa Bay. Rather than adapting his scheme to best fit the talent on the defense, Lovie has shown a distrust for players like Jonathan Banks and Alterraun Verner, displacing both as starters at some point within his short time over the Buccaneers. Replacing starters isn't necessarily a bad thing; however, replacing solid players with ineffective players who are past their primes is just, plain and simple, a great example of bad coaching, and both Tim Jennings and Mike Jenkins fit the bill of ineffective, among other things. Making matters worse, Smith has now moved 2014 prize free agent Verner to the nickelback spot, where 2015 free agent pickup Sterling Moore made a name for himself (in Dallas). Now, Moore barely sees the field as fans are forced to watch Jenkins and Jennings be embarrassed every week.
While Smith preaches perseverance for both the team and its fans, the latter has yet to see the former display it on the field, with the exception being during last year's victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's one good example...in one and a half years under this regime. Rather than making excuses or spouting out empty rhetoric or delusional statements to defend the performance of this team, it’s time that Smith take responsibility for himself and how he hasn’t prepared the Buccaneers and put them in position to succeed.
If Lovie Smith wants to be a competent coach and not just another along a coaching carousel in Tampa Bay, he must change the mentality of the roster...and it starts with him.