Lovie Smith was surprisingly terminated by the Tampa Bay Bucs Wednesday night via phone call. It caught everyone by such surprise – just like the Chip Kelly firing – that the team announced it on its website. No reporter even had a whiff this was coming.
Smith went 2-14 in 2014, but it netted the team Jameis Winston with the #1 pick. Tampa was thumped in its opener at home, 42-14, but the Bucs rebounded to get to 6-6 and in the playoff mix. Then star rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander got popped for PEDs. They went 0-4 down the stretch. He still finished 2nd on the team in tackles.
So Smith only went 8-24 in his two seasons in Tampa, which is worse than what Greg Schiano did in his two seasons. Still, Smith had lots of defenders in the locker room – including Alexander and the team’s best defensive player, LaVonte David, who sounded off on twitter (then deleted his remarks).
Which leads us to the replacement question: Chip Kelly makes a ton of sense. Tampa tried hard to get him in 2012, and he initially said yes to their offer, then recanted and went back to Oregon. A year later, he left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
And you know else who makes sense? Jimbo Fisher. Is he ready for his NFL shot? He knows Winston well, he knows offense, he’s got a powerful agent in Jimmy Sexton and he just got a divorce, so bolting Tallahassee wouldn’t be a problem.
But forget those names. Overwhelmingly, those who have worked in the Bucs front office are saying that Dirk Koetter, the team’s offensive coordinator, is getting the job. And shockingly, the reasoning is that their soon-to-be 57-year old offensive coordinator was instrumental in Winston’s impressive rookie year, and Tampa could have lost him to another team looking for a head coach.
That last part is puzzling. Koetter has been mentioned as a head coach possibility in previous Januarys, mostly based on his work as the offensive coordinator with the Jaguars and Falcons. This month, I haven’t heard his name come up for any potential opening except in Miami. Who was Tampa afraid of losing him to?
And as folks have asked on twitter, since when did Dirk Koetter – fired at Arizona State after six seasons in which he went 40-34, but was 2-19 against ranked teams – turn into Bill Walsh?
It’s understandable for Tampa to be all-in on Winston. But he’s 21. He’s got a long career ahead of him. Would the loss of Koetter really been that much to overcome, especially if they had replaced him with offensive-minded guys like Kelly or Fisher?