Today's question: When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Greg Schiano after two seasons and immediately hired Lovie Smith as the new head coach, it seemed as though order would finally be restored in Tampa. Fast forward to two seasons later, though, and after finishing 8-24 during that span, Smith is gone. The move came as a surprise to many in the league, despite the team's struggles defensively. In Chicago, Smith won three divisional titles, an NFC Championship and a Coach of the Year Award, so he knew how to produce a winner. I asked fellow NFC South reporters Vaughn McClure, David Newton and Mike Triplett whether the Bucs gave Smith enough time before replacing him with Dirk Koetter.
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: I feel like Lovie Smith deserved more time than two years to fix what has been broken in Tampa for a while. People criticized him for relying too much on the Tampa 2 scheme, but the Buccaneers weren't strictly a Cover 2 defense under Smith despite what outsiders might think. And I know star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had some issues with the scheme, but I also heard from reliable sources that McCoy didn't always work his hardest. Koetter got a lot of credit for the Bucs' improvement on offense, and he possesses a sharp offensive mind. But the Buccaneers also emphasized offense with 12 of 13 draft picks coming on offense during the 2014 and 2015 drafts. The lone defensive pick, Kwon Alexander, served a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. All indications were that Smith was blindsided by the team's decision, especially after progress was shown last year. One source told me this about the situation Smith inherited in Tampa: "The culture of the team was in disarray. There were a lot of guys who didn't love football." Smith deserved at least another year to turn it around.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: No, and I'll use Carolina's Ron Rivera as an example. Rivera's first two Panthers teams went 6-10 and 7-9. He started his third season 1-3 and pundits were calling for his dismissal. Team owner Jerry Richardson stood pat and reaped the rewards with three straight NFC South titles and a trip to the Super Bowl this past season. Smith and Rivera are cut from the same cloth in many ways as far their philosophy on how to build a team -- it starts with defense and a strong running game. That the Bucs haven't shown a lot of progress defensively the past two seasons is somewhat concerning. But the offense has been dreadful, which makes being sound defensively hard because players are on the field too long. I would have given Smith at least one more year. With emerging star quarterback Jameis Winston, the pieces are starting to fall into place with Tampa Bay as they did with Carolina and Cam Newton.
Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: It was definitely a callous move. It was a bit surprising, especially the way it went down so late in the process. And it may have even been unnecessary, unless the Bucs were convinced that they might lose Koetter to another head-coaching gig. But all of that being said, Tampa Bay's No. 1 goal needs to be maximizing the potential of quarterback Jameis Winston. Nothing else is even a close second. A great quarterback is even harder to find than a great head coach -- and teams don't get many cracks at No. 1 overall draft picks with Winston's talent level. So if the Buccaneers think this move was in Winston's best interest then it's hard to argue with.