TAMPA, Fla. -- The Lovie Smith era has started about as poorly as possible. Smith and general manager Jason Licht came in saying they were in a "win-now" mode because they didn't feel it was fair to ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans to be patient. They were aggressive in free agency, but none of those signings has made a major impact so far. Injuries have played a part in the slow start, but they're not a valid excuse for what has happened. This team has struggled in every area, and there haven't been many signs that things are going to improve.
Midseason MVP: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been a bright spot on a team that hasn't had many. Despite drawing constant double-teams and playing part of the time with a broken hand, McCoy has been a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line. He has played the run very well and has been the most consistent pass-rusher the Bucs have. That's why the Bucs recently signed McCoy to a seven-year, $98 million contract extension.
Biggest disappointment: The defense. This unit was supposed to be a strength under Smith, who is supposed to be a defensive guru, with McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David forming the nucleus. McCoy and David have done their parts, but the rest of the defense has been a disaster. The Bucs are ranked last in overall defense, and a lot of people are wondering whether Smith's Tampa 2 scheme is outdated. Defensive end Michael Johnson, who was brought in to bolster the pass rush, hasn't been a factor.
Best moment: There's only one choice here, and that's the Sept. 28 win against Pittsburgh. It came on the road and was easily Tampa Bay's best overall performance of the season. Quarterback Mike Glennon was making his first start of the season, and he threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs trailed late in the game, but the defense came up with a huge stop. The offense got the ball back with 40 seconds left, and Glennon led the drive to a game-winning touchdown.
Worst moment: You can take your pick of several, and the blowout loss to Atlanta is a strong candidate. But I'm going with the 48-17 loss to Baltimore. That was the worst because it came at home after a week in which the coaches and players were promising an improved performance. Instead, the Bucs turned in their worst performance of the season. They fell behind quickly and trailed 38-0 at halftime.
Key to the second half: Playoff hopes disappeared a long time ago, but the second half of this season is important on several levels. Although it would be unusual to fire a coach (especially one on a five-year contract) after only one season, it's not unprecedented. Smith needs a few wins and some signs of improvement to fully secure his job. This season still can turn out to be a success if the Bucs finish strong and build some momentum heading into next season.