On Thursday, the Buccaneers announced the hiring of Lovie Smith as the 10th head coach in franchise history. Smith, who served as the Chicago Bears’ head coach from 2004-12, began his NFL career as the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach in 1996. As part of Tony Dungy’s first staff in ‘96, Smith helped turn around a franchise that had gone 15 years without a playoff berth, eventually leading to the team’s victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
"Today is an exciting day for the Buccaneer organization, and the entire Tampa Bay community, as we welcome back Lovie Smith," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. “Lovie is an accomplished and very well respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career. We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead this team into this new era of Buccaneer football.”
Smith and the team agreed to a five-year deal. The Buccaneers’ new head coach will be formally introduced at a press conference at One Buccaneer place on Monday, Jan. 6, at 2:00 p.m. ET. The press conference will be carried live on Buccaneers.com.
Smith helped return the Bears to a position of prominence in the NFC North; before his arrival, Chicago had recorded one just one winning season and one playoff berth in the previous eight years. Similarly, Smith had been part of a massive organization overhaul in Tampa. He came on as Dungy’s linebackers coach in 1996 and helped the team reach its first postseason in a decade-and-a-half in 1997. The Bucs went back to the postseason in 1999 and 2000, reaching the NFC Championship Game in ’99. Smith left the Buccaneers in 2001 to become the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams and, three years later, took the head job in Chicago.
Smith’s teams excelled in many ways, but there’s no doubt they were particularly good on defense. During his tenure as head coach in Chicago, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways (310), three-and-out drives forced (485), three-and-out drive percentage (26.4%), third down percentage (34.1%) and red zone scoring efficiency (79.3%). At the same time, Chicago ranked second in the league in opponent yards per pass attempt (6.52) and red zone takeaways (37), third in opponent passer rating (76.0), fourth in scoring defense (19.2 points per game) and seventh in rushing average (4.0).
Of course, Chicago also enjoyed some of the best offensive success in team history during Smith’s time at the helm. In 2006, the Bears recorded the third-most points in franchise history (427) during their run to the Super Bowl. In 2009, quarterback Jay Cutler set franchise records in completions (336) and attempts (555), while his 3,666 passing yards were the second most in franchise history. In Smith's final season of 2012, the Bears boasted an offensive attack comprised of a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver for only the second time in team history.
Smith’s NFL roots are intertwined with some of the most significant figures in Buccaneer history. Not only did he help Dungy establish a new culture in Tampa, he also arrived just in time to help shape the career of soon-to-be Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks. Under Smith’s tutelage, Brooks emerged as a Pro Bowler in 1997, beginning an all-star streak that would eventually reach 11 overall selections.
Overall, Smith has spent 30 years in coaching at the collegiate and professional levels. He began his coaching career at his hometown high school, Big Sandy High School, in 1980 before moving to Cascia Hall Prep in Tulsa the following year. Two years later, Smith made the jump to the college ranks at his alma mater of Tulsa as linebackers coach, where he stayed through 1986. Smith moved on to coach linebackers at Wisconsin (1987), Arizona State (1988-91), and Kentucky (1992). Smith was the defensive backs coach at Tennessee (1993-94) and Ohio State (1995).
Smith and his wife MaryAnne are the proud parents of three children: Mikal, Matthew and Miles. A native of Big Sandy, Texas, Smith led the Big Sandy Wildcats to three consecutive state championships in high school and was all-state as a defensive end and linebacker. He went on to play collegiately at the University of Tulsa and was a two-time all-American and three time all-Missouri Conference selection.
Smith is also a proud son of the Bay area, having launched his own NFL career in Tampa and at the same time helping to establish the most successful era in franchise history. Now, Smith returns to his first NFL home, ready to reconnect the Buccaneers with that culture of success from the past and lead them into what now appears to be a very bright future indeed.