Lovie Smith’s steady ways suit Buccaneers just fine
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter August 9, 2014 12:52AM
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith, resuming his career in Tampa, looks on during Friday’s loss at Jacksonville. | Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
Updated: September 11, 2014 6:46AM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Children treaded water and stared out the glass side of the pool, toward the end zone. Their parents lingered in the new EverBank Field cabanas, underneath the world’s largest scoreboard.
Even before a halftime laser light show added strobes to a hit by country act Florida Georgia Line, it was clear that this, not too far from the actual Florida-Georgia line, was a long way from the NFC North.
If you were expecting Lovie Smith to elaborate on the differences Friday from his last sideline experience — the Bears’ Dec. 30, 2012, win at Detroit — you’re missing the point.
To do so would be, well, inconsistent.
He said he had ‘‘the same feeling for a preseason game’’ as he did coaching in Chicago.
‘‘It’s been good every day I’ve been back,’’ he said Friday night after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wearing jersey numbers that were supposed to glow under stadium lights, lost 16-10 to the host Jacksonville Jaguars. ‘‘Every day’s been a blessing. Have a great group of guys that take coaching — and they’ll take the coaching we’re going to give ’em as we make these improvements.’’
What’s the best part?
‘‘There’s no favorite part,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Every day. The grind. Training camp right now. I enjoy training camp.’’
Last season, Smith lived in Lake Forest and collected the $5 million the Bears owed him after firing him after nine seasons.
The Buccaneers hired him Jan. 2.
While no one writes odes to stability, that’s exactly what the Buccaneers needed.
‘‘I don’t want to speak for them, but that’s why Lovie gets the job that he gets,’’ said former Bears quarterback Josh McCown, the Buccaneers’ starter. ‘‘Because they want somebody who’s consistent like he is, and who’s been through the fires and stayed the course and been productive. He’s certainly done that.’’
The Bucs’ previous coaches haven’t.
Smith is the franchise’s third coach in four years. The other two, Greg Schiano and Raheem Morris, combined to go 28-52. Their teams were outscored by 436 points.
The very thing that annoyed Bears fans — Smith’s 81-63 record shakes out to a consistently decent 9-7 average — is the consistency the Bucs seek.
‘‘I don’t really feel like he’s any different — that’s the beauty of working with him again,’’ McCown said. ‘‘He seems like the same guy to me. That’s what makes Lovie special — he’s the same guy.’’
That’s why safety Major Wright said rejoining Smith after four years with the Bears was a ‘‘no-brainer.’’
‘‘Nothing will change about him,’’ Wright said. ‘‘That’s what I like about him as a coach. . . . It’s always mellow. There’s never no high, never no low. Just in between.’’
From the nothing-ever-changes files: Smith’s offense struggled mightily Friday, managing only a second-quarter field goal and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Against a Jaguars unit that allowed the fifth-most points in the league last season, McCown was 2-for-4 for 20 yards in just over a quarter. He threw an interception returned for a 68-yard touchdown by Winston Guy Jr.
He was sacked twice. He fumbled twice, losing one, and finished with a quarterback rating of 25.0.
Smith said the offensive line was ‘‘not ready yet’’ and ‘‘didn’t protect the quarterback well enough’’ — a familiar refrain from his Chicago days.
McCown called the game ‘‘the first little bump in the road’’ for his new team.
In the spring, his new teammates asked McCown about Smith’s personality. Now, he said, they’ll see firsthand how he reacts to adversity, even if it’s the preseason variety.
‘‘That’s the cool thing — you can take the experiences you had with someone, especially like Lovie, and you can share them with other guys,’’ McCown said. ‘‘And then you get to sit back and watch them really enjoy getting coached by him, and being led by him.’’