Lovie Smith Building Elite Coaching Staff in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers

1389042079447For the most part, Lovie Smith was a successful head coach with the Chicago Bears. He put up four double-digit win campaigns in nine seasons, including a 10-6 record last year that was his final with the organization. He overlooked a Rex Grossman-led Bears group to the Super Bowl in 2006 before falling short to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He “led” four top-five scoring defenses as well.

Needless to say, Smith was going to be a solid head coaching candidate after a year on the sidelines and away from the game.

Working quickly after they fired Greg Schiano, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the man they targeted the entire time. In fact, there seems to be some belief around the NFL community that Tampa Bay interviewed Smith when Schiano was still its head coach. But I digress.

Smith, one of the most sought after head coaching candidates in the league, is a defensive mind. Prior to taking over as the Bears head coach in 2004, Smith coordinated a surprisingly good St. Louis Rams defense from 2001-2003, leading them to top-10 finishes in total yards and points against. Before that, Smith coached linebackers with these very same Buccaneers from 1996-2000. In case you were wondering, that linebacker group did include soon-to-be Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.

Smith began his coaching career with stops at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Tennessee and Ohio State in college…mostly focusing on the linebacker position. Needless to say, he has what it takes to improve what was an under-performing Tampa Bay defense in 2013.

An organization can bring in one of the most qualified head coaches on the market, but it’s who he adds to the staff that will end up dictating the success he has. Let’s look at the San Francisco 49ers as a case study for a second.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired following another disappointing season in 2010, his first decision was to hire experienced coaches on both sides of the ball. Greg Roman (offensive coordinator), Vic Fangio (defensive coordinator), Jim Leavitt (linebackers coach), Ed Donatell (secondary coach) and Brad Seely (special teams coordinator) were among those hired. These five coaches combined for 40 years of NFL coordinating experience prior to taking jobs with the 49ers. Think about that for a second.

Now look at who Smith has brought with him to Tampa.

New defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, despite a struggle this past season as the Minnesota Vikings head coach, has been an absolute stud as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. He acted as the Vikings defensive coordinator from 2007-2010 and before that as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive head man in 2003-2004. In his six years as a coordinator in the NFL, Frazier led four top-10 rushing defenses and three different units that finished in the top-10 in points against. Frazier also brings eight years of positional coaching experience with him to the Buccaneers.

With both Smith and Frazier set to head a talented young defense, the focus now turns to an equally talented offense. Former California head coach Jeff Tedford has been brought in to take over that unit. Despite the fact that he has no NFL coaching experience, Tedford’s success in college cannot be ignored. What he did at Berkeley for a previously fledgling program was nothing short of amazing.

In 11 years as Cal’s head coach, Tedford led the program to a .590 winning percentage and eight bowl appearances. To put that into perspective for a second, Cal made a total of eight bowl appearances in the half century before Tedford took over and won one game the year before he became their head coach.

Known as a quarterback guru, Tedford worked with David Carr, Akili Smith, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers in college…all first-round picks.

Smith has the ability to focus on the defense with Frazier, while giving Tedford free reigns of an offense that includes young studs Mike Glennon and Doug Martin. As much as we want utilize a narrative that Tedford is nothing more than a quarterback guy, Cal also had a ton of success in the running game with Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best under Tedford.

I am intrigued to see who Smith brings in as positional coaches in Tampa Bay. While having stellar coordinators is one thing, being able to have the ability to rely on positional coaches to do their thing is a completely different. You can expect him to mix in veterans he has worked with in the past and a few youngsters, who bring something completely different to the table.

As it is, bringing Frazier and Tedford in as coordinators is an amazing first step in Tampa Bay.