People around the NFL seem shocked this morning after the firing of Lovie Smith. It certainly did come out of the blue, and according to reports, had more to do with keeping Tampa’s offensive coordinator in house than it did with Smith himself.
Whether or not Dirk Koetter does eventually become the Buc’s next head coach, Smith is gone. After winning just eight games over his two years with the team, it’s hard to defend Lovie Smith’s results.
What can be defended is the fact that the best way to stay a bottom feeder in the NFL is to change coaches every couple seasons. This fact is indisputable.
The Bucs will be hiring their third coach in the past five years. They gave Smith’s predecessor Greg Schiano just two years to get the franchise on track before his 11 wins with 21 losses proved not good enough either. Schiano was seen a great fit during his seven win rookie year but fell out of grace when the team regressed the following season.
Before Schiano arrived, it was Raheem Morris who had three years to show what he could do. He had a nice 10 win season sandwiched between two really bad ones that netted only seen victories.
I was not impressed by any of those coaches. Not so much as a result of their records. They just weren’t around long enough to see if they were worth their salt.
Of course, Lovie Smith had a body of work as the HC in Chicago for nine years. The turnaround there was fast. The guy had 11 wins in year two and got a team quarterbacked by Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl in the third season.
Who knows what Smith would have accomplished in his third year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs pulled the plug before he had a chance to take another step forward. He had already won four more games than he did in 2014 and with a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston that looks to be a legit franchise QB for years to come, things looked bright in Tampa.
I hate to defend coaches that don’t get the job done. I’d have a hard time paying a guy four or five million a year only to see them lose games on a regular basis. However, I wouldn’t cut my nose off to spite my face.
Firing a head coach before he has a chance to really turn the corner simply doesn’t make sense. There are many examples of a head coach getting canned only to do well later on with another team. Belichick is the best example after leaving Cleveland with a pink slip.
We have to factor in personal growth that happens to make these unsuccessful head coaches turn into successes at their next stop. Since that’s the case, why would owners not let the coaches they picked to run the team have a chance to grow inside the organization?
I’m guessing patience is not easy to come by as an NFL owner. These billionaires have made their bones by making things happen in a hurry. I’m sure they fired folks left and right as they made enough money to allow them to become the owner of a professional football team.
Firing an accountant or an office manager is a bit different than getting rid of a head coach that is charged with getting 53 guys to work as one in order to beat out 31 other teams that are working toward the same goal.
Two years is plenty for a bean counter to get his spreadsheets right or a manager to get Sally and Ben to get along. Two years is not enough to get an NFL franchise completely turned around. Progress should be shown, and you can’t allow back to back seasons with less than four wins, but most coaches deserve four years in order to see what they can do.
I know the NFL is all about results. That’s why Lovie Smith was sent packing. There is evidence though that firing a coach too quickly doesn’t yield the right results.
Along with Tampa Bay, we see how other perennial losers have fared with dropping coaches consistently.
Cleveland has not gotten on track in the past seven years by giving three coaches the axe after two years and one poor bastard canned after one season. The Raiders’ temp service approach of eight head coaches in the past decade has yielded not one winning season.
It’s hard to feel bad for Lovie Smith or any NFL head coach making millions. It’s the fan base that suffers when the owners’ lack of patience and vision keeps the lesser teams from rising up.
The draft and free agency put teams on a fairly even playing field. It appears that stability at the head coaching position may be the biggest factor in teams getting out of a seemingly endless rut. It just takes courage to stick with a coach when things don’t turn around in the first 24 months.