NFL NEWS: Lovie Smith
It’s a new system
Fans have been understandably frustrated with the lack of success which lead to the firing of their Super Bowl-winning head coach in Jon Gruden and his two inexperienced successors, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano.
The changes have wreaked havoc on players who often found themselves stunted in their development. Josh Freeman, Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn were such byproducts of previous regimes. At one time, they were highly touted draft picks with such promise, yet as the team kept underachieving each year, they fell out of favor with the coaching staff.
The defense has shown progress, but the offense has much work to do. Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, prior to his arrival, was touted to produce NFL-ready quarterbacks, but is it really any surprise that Josh McCown, one game in, isn’t looking like Aaron Rodgers and instead more like Trent Dilfer?
Today’s game against the Rams will likely help set the tone for the rest of the season and show they’re not as hopeless as their first 50 minutes were against the Panthers.
Tedford’s success this season will not necessarily be predicated on the health of guard Logan Mankins and Doug Martin if he’s worth his weight in experience, but how his existing depth can open up the running lanes enough so the passing game can thrive.
Smith has been there before
Much of the criticism of Smith is that he was unable to overcome his team’s offensive shortcomings, but let’s remember that Smith has succeed further than his mentor Tony Dungy ever did with half a team. Defense might have solidified the Indianapolis Colts‘ victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, but it was game MVP quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Tom Moore who defined the team. If Rex Grossman and Dilfer can ride the success of a dominant running game and defense to a Super Bowl, then McCown can too.
Average quarterbacks or even streaky quarterbacks can thrive when the defense is dominating. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco or New York Giants Eli Manning(the latter who won two Super Bowls).
The Bucs have at least the depth at running back to succeed with Martin, Bobby Rainey and Mike James leading the way. The offense can only benefit from the improving defense.
It will take at least another year or two
I predicted the Bucs would be an 8-8 team and anything better is gravy. Smith and general manager Jason Licht cleaned a lot of house and brought in new faces. You’re going to have some hiccups along the way as they found out with their third rounder Charles Sims and new acquisition Mike Jenkins going to IR. Tedford was even out of commission with his surgery.
If you have reason to doubt at least the defense, just ask the Rams, Bears, Vikings and Bengals how much better their defenses were when Smith and Frazier were there.