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Bears barely rate a blip on Lovie Smith’s radar

New TampBay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith smiles during news conference Monday Jan. 6 2014 TampFla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith smiles during a news conference Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) ORG XMIT: OTKCO105

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Updated: February 8, 2014 6:27AM



Without ever saying goodbye to Chicago, Lovie Smith said hello to Tampa on ­Monday.

The former Bears coach didn’t look back as he celebrated a homecoming upon officially being introduced as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coach.

‘‘It’s time for us to be a relevant team again,’’ said Smith, who was the Buccaneers’ linebacker coach from 1996 to 2000 under Tony Dungy. ‘‘I really like the foundation that’s in place here for us to make a quick climb.’’

As has been clearly evident, Lovie moved on from the Bears long before Monday. His departure from Chicago was marked by his silence since being fired by general manager Phil Emery after failing to make the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons in 2012, despite a 10-6 record.

Previously fired Bears coaches at least said thank you and goodbye — from Mike Ditka (‘‘All things must pass. This, too, shall pass.’’) to Dave Wannstedt (‘‘I’m not going to make excuses. It’s a tough job, a tough city.’’) to Dick Jauron (‘‘I have loved every moment of it. I wish it could have turned out better, but I am not looking back.’’). But Lovie never was heard from again in these parts. Over nine years, the city never really warmed up to Lovie, and it appears the feeling was mutual.

He reflected on his days with the Bears only indirectly Monday.

‘‘My time in Chicago, it was my first head-coaching job, so I did learn a lot from start to finish,’’ he said. ‘‘Just a great experience. As I come here as a coach that spent nine years in the league, every situation that will come up, I’ve been in . . . except for holding up the Lombardi Trophy.’’

Smith moves on to the Bucs, who were 4-12 under Greg Schiano this season, haven’t made the playoffs in six seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl under Jon Gruden after the 2002
season.

The record of second-chance coaches is hit and miss. Ditka, Wannstedt and Jauron were fired from their post-Bears gigs. Bill Belichick (three), Tom Coughlin (two), Dungy and Gruden all won Super Bowls after being fired elsewhere. Lovie could wind up in either group. He had his faults but still was an excellent coach. But it remains to be seen if the headstrong Smith has learned from his experience here.

Even in the best of times, his teams faded: The Bears were 44-28 in the first half of the season and 37-35 in the second half. His record of hiring assistant coaches with the Bears was unimpressive. The only assistant to become a full-time head man in the NFL is one he fired, Ron Rivera. None of Lovie’s offensive coordinators — Terry Shea, Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice — are still in the NFL.

Smith is rolling the dice already. His offensive coordinator is former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, a noted quarterback guru who never has coached in the NFL. His defensive coordinator is former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. His good buddy Rod Marinelli is staying in Dallas, Smith said Monday.

And he’s inheriting an awkward front-office dynamic. The Bucs still don’t have a general manager. It is presumed that Lovie will have some say in whom the Bucs hire. The good news is that Lovie has been here before. The bad news is that the last time Lovie had a say in a GM search, the Bears ended up hiring the guy who fired him. The more things change . . .

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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