Lovie Smith is set to return to the NFL after reaching an agreement to become the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith, who led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl appearance before being fired last season, is set to take over for the ousted Greg Schiano, sources told ESPN. The two sides are reportedly ironing out the details of a four-year contract, one that will be worth more than $5 million a year.
Smith was highly sought after this NFL firing season, garnering interest from the Detroit Lions as well. But Smith has a good stable of young talent in Tampa and ownership willing to give him a wide berth to improve the team. Tampa had already fired general manager Mark Dominik, meaning Smith will have complete control over his staff and a large say in personnel as well.
Lovie Smith is expected to bring in former Cal coach Jeff Tefford to serve as his offensive coordinator.
The 2013 season was a disappointing one for the Bucs. After entering the season with high expectations, the team stumbled to an 0-8 start, one that included the very public rift with quarterback Josh Freeman.
Much of the blame fell on Schiano, who seemed to lose grip on the locker room and instilled little discipline in his players.
Lovie Smith was fired by the Chicago Bears after the 2012 season despite finishing 10-6. The move was questioned by Bears fans at the time, and earned the team criticism from within NFL circles.
“I think Lovie is a very good coach,” legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka told ESPN 1000 last year. “Everybody is a little bit different in their manner. I think that’s a 10-win season. They started 7-1. This team, there’s a reason they lost some games in between. A lot of the wins they got in the 7-1 run were because of turnovers by the defense were turned into points. The offense didn’t score enough points in those other games. That’s the bottom line.”
Lovie Smith will have a chance to face his former team this season, as the Buccaneers are set to take on the Bears in Chicago.