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Drafting Jameis Winston probably keeps Lovie Smith off the hot seat

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Lovie Smith took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, no one could have predicted a 2-14 season. Expensive free agents came in, a stud wide receiver in the draft, and we all knew that Lovie Smith's defense would be great -- after all, there was a terrific personnel fit and he'd had a long history of success. Expecting a winning season may have been a bit much, but at least a reasonably competitive team seemed perfectly reasonable.

Miraculously, the Bucs turned into the worst team in the NFL, and yet Lovie Smith's job security was never really in dispute. He had a long history of success, was well-respected, and had had only one year on the job. Even though his defense was awful for the first half of the year and all the choices he made on offenses had backfired, a long-standing problem for Smith, his position was perfectly safe.

And the decision the Bucs made in the draft will give him at least another two years, and possibly younger. Jameis Winston gives the franchise hope, and that hope will float Lovie Smith's boat almost regardless of the team's performance this year -- unless the team completely collapses again, that is.

Drafting a quarterback gives head coaches a lot more time -- everyone knows quarterbacks struggle early on, and punishing a head coach for that is frowned upon. That's part of why it took Jim Schwartz managed to hang on to his job in Detroit for five years, despite putting up only one winning season over that time. Even when everything else is going wrong, people will still point to the quarterback and excuse all of those other struggles.

More than that, a young quarterback gives the team perspective and hope for the future. "This past season may have been bad, but this young quarterback showed potential and we'll be good soon," fans and executives think. Whether or not there are other issues with the team, that's the frame through which the team's performance will be viewed.

As long as that hope and perspective for the future is present, Lovie Smith's job is secure. And as long as Jameis Winston looks like a future franchise quarterback, the Bucs will have hope and perspective.