Glazer: Bucs close to hiring Lovie Smith as head coach

Lovie Smith compiled an 81-63 in nine seasons with the Bears.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA, Fla. –– The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear close to making Lovie Smith their next coach.

FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer reported Wednesday night the Bucs will hire Smith, 55, after quietly interviewing him this week. Contract details are still being finalized, but it appears the sides are close to an agreement.

The deal, if completed as expected, is reportedly for four years and about $5 million per season.

The Bucs are hoping Smith’s proven NFL track record brings consistency back to Tampa Bay after two ineffective, sometimes tumultuous, seasons under former coach Greg Schiano. Smith served as the Bucs’ linebackers coach from 1996-2000 before going to the St. Louis Rams to be their defensive coordinator from 2001-2003. He coached the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012 and had an 81-63 regular-season record.

His highest moment came in the 2006 campaign, when he guided the Bears to a 13-3 regular-season record, which resulted in an NFC North title. Chicago won the NFC title before losing in Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts and Tony Dungy, Smith’s former boss at Tampa Bay.

Smith, known as one of the league’s brightest defensive minds, led the Bears to three postseason appearances in his tenure there. With him, Chicago won at least 10 games in the regular season four times. He was named the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year in 2005, after guiding the Bears to an 11-5 regular-season record, which led to their first postseason appearance since going after the 2001 campaign under former coach Dick Jauron.

People with current and former Bucs ties greeted the announcement with praise on Twitter.

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!”

Former linebacker Derrick Brooks: ”So excited tonight. @TBBuccaneers, Bucs got better tonight with Lovie Smith coming back as the new H/C. Words can’t describe my excitement”


   

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy: ”Lovie Smith……….. Grade A!! Gonna be fun!!! Wonder what else they have in store!?! Hmmm….”

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn: ”Woke up to some pretty good news I think!!”

Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers: ”I’m excited to play for a coach who can bring my potential out and COACH me”

Still, Smith will face a significant recovery job upon his arrival. The Bucs have had three coaches in six years: Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris and Schiano. They have produced losing seasons in five of the past six seasons, and their postseason drought has reached six campaigns.

Though he’s a defensive-minded leader, Smith must find a way to correct one of the NFL’s most ineffective offenses from this season. The Bucs ranked 30th in scoring offense (18 points per game), 32nd in total offense (277 yards per game) and 32nd in passing offense (176.2 ypg). Reportedly, Smith will tap Jeff Tedford, who coached California from 2002-2012, as his offensive coordinator.

Defensively, Tampa Bay is in better shape. The Bucs’ two Pro Bowlers (defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerback Darrelle Revis) are found on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David, a second-year player, is one of the game’s rising stars at his position. Safety Dashon Goldson, a two-time Pro Bowl player, can be an asset as well.

This season, the Bucs ranked 15th in rush defense (110.1 yards per game), 17th in pass defense (237.9 ypg), 17th in total defense (348 ypg) and 21st in scoring defense (24.3 points per game).

Smith is reportedly seeking Rod Marinelli to be his defensive coordinator. Marinelli, who worked as a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator under Smith in Chicago, spent this season as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line coach. Leslie Frazier, fired by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, also has been mentioned as a possibility for the position.

It remains to be seen who will replace Mark Dominik as general manager. Still, the Glazer family acted quickly to entice Smith, who was expected to interview with the Detroit Lions soon.

Smith’s familiarity with the situation in Tampa Bay, however, appears to have helped convince him to return to a franchise seeking new life.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.