The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fired Lovie Smith in a surprise move after a 6-10 season. The Bucs lost the final four games of the season and the defense, supposedly Smith's specialty, remained mediocre this season.
Lovie Smith was hired in 2014 after the team fired Greg Schiano, and he was supposed to bring back the Bucs of the late 1990s, when they had a dominant defense and a just-good-enough offense. Instead, the Bucs had a terrible first season, going 2-14 and earning the number one overall pick. They used that to select Jameis Winston, who along with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter helped the Bucs offense improve, but the dominant defense Lovie Smith had promised never arrived in 2015.
The Bucs put out the following statement on the firing.
"After careful consideration, we informed Lovie that we have decided to make a change. I want to thank Lovie for his hard work and dedication to the Buccaneers during his time here. This decision was difficult on a variety of levels. I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve. As we move forward, General Manager Jason Licht will oversee the process for finding our next head coach."
The decision to move on from Smith is a controversial one, though plenty of fans have called for him to be replaced. Smith was hampered by a lack of talent on defense, though he himself was at least partly responsible for that situation. More importantly, this situation will lead to yet another overhaul of the roster and coaching staff, after two years of trying to collect talent for the current scheme. That may be especially damaging for Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, two young star players who fit perfectly in the current scheme, while continuity will also be disrupted for Jameis Winston -- note exactly the best thing that can happen to a young quarterback.
Still, the decision to move on from Smith is understandable given the lack of results and an especially lackluster defense. The team will need to start quickly on a head coaching search in a competitive market, though they may be looking at offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter given the strong work he's done with the offense this past year.
The Bucs should be in good position to land a quality head coach, though not many of those are actually available. They have a future franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, a top ten draft pick, talented players at key positions on both sides of the ball and cap space they've been willing to spend every season.