The Buccaneers' hiring of Lovie Smith as head coach was the "best possible move the Bucs could have made at this point in time," as he represents a "bridge from the proudest era in franchise history to the future," according to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. Smith was the team's linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from '96-'00. Smith was formally introduced yesterday and said, "I'm going to reach out to all of our former Buccaneers. They'll always be welcome here. We want them around. We want our current players to feel that pressure of how they're supposed to perform each week." Yasinskas noted just by "walking into his news conference, Smith brought a sudden warmth." There "never was much warmth" from fired coach Greg Schiano. Schiano's "chill ... was felt by players, staff members and the fan base." Happy staff members and fans "are an important part of the equation," but Schiano "never understood that." Yasinskas: "It's well past time for the Bucs to be relevant again." Smith's return to the organization "brings a hope that simply wasn't there" when former coach Raheem Morris and Schiano were there (ESPN.com, 1/6). Bucs co-Chair Bryan Glazer said Smith is the "right man at the right time for the Buccaneers" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/7). In Tampa, Tom Jones notes Smith yesterday "talked and walked the part of a real flesh-and-blood NFL coach," which is "exactly what the Bucs need these days." They need a "guy who has been there and done that" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/7). FS1’s Brian Urlacher, who played for Smith for nine years while both were with the Bears, said, "He’s the right fit for any job he gets. ... As a player, you respect him because the way he carries himself, and the way he treats you as a man. He wants you to act like a man, so he’s going to treat you like a man" (“Fox Football Daily,” FS1, 1/6).
COACH COMES BEFORE GM: Smith fills the Buccaneers' coaching vacancy despite the team not yet having replaced departed GM Mark Dominik. Smith said, “I’ve always been involved in personnel. I look forward to getting our new general manager in here. The coaching staff is pretty much in place, but can’t wait to get the new general manager in place. We have a lot of pieces in place, great foundation, but we have a lot of work to do still.” Smith reportedly was a candidate for other openings, but he said taking the Bucs' job is "about coming home, starting off as a linebacker coach here and being there in the infant stage of bringing the Buccaneers back up on Tony Dungy’s first staff." Smith: "It's always been a special place for us, and having a year off ... I got a chance to watch a lot of games around the league. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job opened up, I just thought it was an area that we had an opportunity to come to and hopefully make a quick climb" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 1/7).