TAMPA, FL– He is back. Lovie Smith has returned to Tampa and was officially introduced as the 10th head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at One Buc Place Monday afternoon.
“This is an exciting day as we begin a new chapter in our franchise history,” Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer said. “One that will energize our fan base, and provide the Tampa Bay community with the winning football it deserves.”
Glazer mentioned in the coaching search criteria to look for someone with a proven and established track record. A person that would command the respect of his players, and be a symbol of the Tampa Bay community. To him and the rest of the Glazer family, Lovie Smith was the easy choice.
“It was obvious he was the right man, at the right time, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” said Glazer.
Lovie went up to the podium and almost immediately mentioned his gratitude of returning home, where his NFL coaching career all started, reminding us of the message the Bucs began to establish on the field in the late 1990’s.
“We did, as Bryan said, lay a foundation for Tampa bay Buccaneer football,” said Smith. “There’s a certain brand of football that you expected from us, you knew it would be relentless, we play hard, physical.”
“We have gotten away from that a little bit. And it is time, as we go to the future, for us to become a relevant team again.”
Lovie was indeed part of the building blocks under then head coach Tony Dungy that shaped the Buccaneers into a consistent winning football team. However, when the opportunity came for him to move up as a defensive coordinator, he took it. And while in St. Louis, he would witness his former team hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Smith now returns to a place he calls home, with the chance to experience what he missed out on in 2002-03.
“When you talk about coming home, that kind of says an awful lot,” Smith acknowledged. “When you feel like you’ve been a part of the foundation, but you didn’t get a chance to go all the way up to the mountain top.”
“You always want to go back, if you get an opportunity for me, about coming back home. And we have unfinished business.”
Former Buccaneer greats Mike Alstott, Shelton Quarles, and Donnie Abraham were all in attendance at Lovie’s press conference at One Buc Place, all of whom were on the Bucs during Smith’s tenure as linebackers coach and beyond.
Smith recognized the tradition they and many others left behind, saying he will welcome many former Bucs back to remind his current players how hard it takes to reach the mountain top.
“I’m going to reach out to all of our former great Buccaneers, always be welcome here,” Smith proclaimed. “We want them around, we want our current players to feel that pressure of how they’re supposed to perform each week.”
Following his stint as the defensive coordinator with the Rams, Smith comes in with nine years of head coaching experience with the Chicago Bears. He was let go in 2012 after narrowly missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
While he did not have a job this past season, Lovie valued his time off and believes he is a better football coach and overall person for it.
“How many times in life do you get a chance to just take a break and really evaluate everything that you’ve done?” Smith said. “Everything that you are as a man in just about every situation? That’s what I was able to do.”
Despite not being with an NFL team, he stayed close to the game. Watching, observing, and studying the game more with every chance he got.
“I think every time I saw something related to football, it helped me. And I just put myself in those situations. That should make me a better football coach now.”
This will be Lovie’s second NFL head coaching gig. He understands that he might not get nine years like he did in Chicago. Especially considering how familiar he is with the Buccaneers organization, meaning there’s a higher standard and more pressure on steering the ship in the right direction. Smith says he will embrace that challenge.
“There is pressure, pressure that we’re putting on ourselves,” Smith stated. “The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a relevant team. And I am gonna take that pressure and it will be what drives all of us. Our staff, our players in all.”