The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to hiring former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
NFL.com’s Kevin Patra wrote a Jan. 1 update about the development, citing his colleague, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport:
“Lovie Smith will be the new coach in Tampa, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday, according to a source. The sides are finalizing a deal.
“Smith, the former Chicago Bears coach, was the leading candidate from the start of the Bucs’ search. He will return to the team where he was the linebackers coach from 1996 to 2000.
“League executives informed of the Bucs’ process told Rapoport earlier this week that there was talk of brining together the old Tampa Bay group, including former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell and others.”
Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times, who covers the Buccaneers, supports Patra’s statement regarding team management’s stand on Smith being its No. 1 choice.
Stroud argues Smith’s familiarity with Tampa Bay ownership, the Buccaneers’ talent (especially on defense with stalwarts such as Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Darrelle Revis), the team being $10 million under the salary cap and first-class training facilities all seem to make the former Bears mentor a natural fit.
On the other hand, ESPN reported on Jan. 1 that Smith is getting a four-year deal, with an option for a fifth year, citing league sources. His salary is believed to be “in excess of $5 million a year,” the update goes on to say.
The same ESPN update also states he met with the team owners, the Glazer family, on Tuesday. The meeting ultimately resulted in a job offer on the same day. Smith will also tap former California Golden Bears head coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator.
The Tampa Bay Times writer also had a conversation with football analyst and former Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy — a good friend of Smith — regarding the impending coaching hire.
Dungy pulled no punches in vouching for Smith.
“I think he knows the lay of the land in the organization, No. 1. He’s been there and knows how this thing really developed and how it got going well. I also think he could bring some of that back.
“They’ve got talented people in place, and the one thing he had in Chicago — if you talk to all those players — was that loyalty factor and guys wanting to play for him. I think that’s what he would bring and kind of bring this group together.
“There are a lot of people that would like to work for him. I would guess the whole key will be who they want to get as GM and the whole kind of structure they have and how they move forward.”
News of Smith taking over the helm in Tampa Bay broke out after the team dismissed former head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik on Dec. 30 after a 4-12 season, per Yahoo! Sports’ Anwar S. Richardson. Schiano had three years left on his five-year, $15 million contract with the Buccaneers.
He finished 11-21 in his two-year tenure, according to ESPN.
On the other hand, Smith went 81-63 (.563) during his nine-year stint as Bears head coach from 2004 to 2012, as noted by Pro-Football-Reference.com.