So, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers caught pretty much everyone napping late Wednesday evening, with the announcement that they had fired head coach Lovie Smith.
I have to admit I was surprised by the decision. While the Bucs finished 6-10 this season, including a near-total meltdown by dropping their last four games – at least three of which should have been winnable, at least on paper – they did improve from last year’s dismal 2-14 record to close out Smith’s first season as coach.
Firing Smith after only two years is something of an anomaly for an organization that typically takes a more pragmatic approach to such decisions. This is further clouded by the fact that the expectations for the Bucs were low this season, given last year and the installation of a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston. The problems currently plaguing the Bucs are mostly football related, rather than the incessant locker room and other off-field stupidity that derailed Greg Schiano’s tenure. Okay, they were sucking at football then, too, but the drama and other insanity just made all of that worse. Now, though, it’s generally believed that while there is much room for improvement, the Bucs have many of the key pieces already in place for building toward next season.
So, what the hell, Tampa?
Rumors and gossip are running rampant that the Bucs front office already has a replacement in mind, and may well have already been courting a succesor to Smith even before the season ended. Wouldn’t be the first time that happened. Right, Bucs fans?
So, who might be the new Tampa head coach?
A popular choice seems to be Tom Coughlin, recently of the New York Giants. If Smith’s out, Coughlin would be at the top of my list of potential replacements. There’s also the possibility that the Bucs will look to their own offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, to step into the big shoes.
I guess we’ll see what we see.