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Column: Buccaneers needed coaching change this time

09 MAY 2015: Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith and Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter talk during the Buccaneers Rookie Camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida.
(Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

History is about to repeat itself in Tampa as the Buccaneers move away from the veteran coach perceived as a stable presence in order to push forward with a coordinator they don’t want to lose.

Back in 2009, the Buccaneers foolheartedly moved on from the only coach that ever won a Super Bowl for the franchise, Jon Gruden, because their newly-appointed defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris, got an interview for the big chair with the Denver Broncos.

Concerned they were about to lose the next big thing in the coaching ranks, Tampa pulled the plug on Gruden and moved forward with Morris, who lasted three seasons in Central Florida, compiling a 17-31 mark with two last-place finishes.

Fast forward to Wednesday night when the Buccaneers waived goodbye to Lovie Smith after just two seasons.

“After careful consideration, we informed Lovie that we have decided to make a change,” Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. “I want to thank Lovie for his hard work and dedication to the Buccaneers during his time here.

“This decision was difficult on a variety of levels. I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve. As we move forward, General Manager Jason Licht will oversee the process for finding our next head coach.”

Many believe the strange timing and impetus for the move was because offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was generating interest outside of the One Buc Place after doing a great job mentoring No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. An NFL source confirmed to FanRagSports.com Koetter is indeed the leading candidate for the job.

The Glazer family’s history makes them easy fodder for criticism and most can stipulate that stability and continuity is the best way to succeed consistently in the NFL but that path is always a fine line.

On one hand Smith, unlike some other coaches who were put on the unemployment line this hiring season, is well-liked and almost universally respected.

Lavonte David took to Twitter moments after the news broke and didn’t hide his feelings.

“This is stupid, we can’t even have a consistent coach, 3 coaches in 5 yrs,” the linebacker wrote emotionally referring to the short stints of Morris, Greg Schiano and now Smith before deleting his thoughts.

“Outside looking in, y’all wouldn’t understand how great of a coach/person (Smith) is,” David continued.

Some of us actually do realize Smith’s attributes. However, it’s clear the impetus for Buccaneers is to maximize the enormous potential of Winston and shifting offensive coordinators in the all-important year No. 2 of a quarterback’s development doesn’t sound like a sound plan.

Meanwhile, Smith is a defensive-minded coach, who still believes in running the Tampa-2 scheme when at all possible. It’s an antiquated defense in today’s NFL environment when considering opposing quarterbacks completed 70 percent of their passes against the Buccaneers defense with a mind-numbing 102.5 passer rating.

When you mix that reality in with an 8-24 record over two seasons, the fact Smith is resistant to change and slow to adapt, you begin to realize his ceiling with Tampa was limited anyway.

Whether the ‘Koetter’ about to sail into Tampa Bay is ultimately successful is yet to be determined, but this change was needed.

— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.

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