According to various reports, former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith will be named the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports was first with the story that the two sides were negotiating a contract:
The Bucs are hiring Lovie Smith to be their new head coach, two sides are finalizing the contract tonight — Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 2, 2014
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Smith will hire former University of California coach Jeff Tedford to be his offensive coordinator in Tampa, and Rod Marinelli, formerly a defensive coordinator for the Bears under Smith and a former head coach of the Detroit Lions, will be the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator.
The move sparked congratulations from plenty of corners, including the coach that beat Smith in Super Bowl XLI, Tony Dungy:
Congratulations to the Bucs. I think they made a very good choice in hiring Lovie Smith. Now I'm excited about watching the Bucs next year! — Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) January 2, 2014
While Bears fans undoubtedly have mixed feelings about seeing Smith back in the NFL, there are several ways in which to look at this. For starters, Smith has been aching to get back into coaching since the Bears let him go after the 2012 season, and the Buccaneers are a perfect landing spot for him in several ways.
Smith made his name in Tampa in the late '90s as a linebackers coach under Dungy. After a stint as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams under Mike Martz (another former Bears coordinator under Smith), he brought the Tampa-2 defensive system with him to the Windy City, and under his tutelage the Bears had one of the most ferocious defenses in the league.
With a group of personnel in need of some serious coaching, as well a more delicate touch than the one of ousted coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers made a lot of sense for Smith as he looked to get back into the NFL.
Another way to look at Smith’s hiring is to consider that he easily could have ended up with a team in more direct competition with the Bears. The Detroit Lions, who fired Jim Schwartz on Monday, would have been another great landing spot for Smith, whose ability to mix discipline with players-first approach would have likely translated into big things for a Lions team that still feels that it is on the cusp of competing for a championship.
With defense players like N’Damukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Smith would have had a field day going up against Marc Trestman’s Bears twice a season, but that hypothetical apparently won’t come to pass. Instead, Smith will get a chance to come back to Soldier Field in 2014, as the Buccaneers are slated to play a road game against the Bears next season.