What’s not to like about Tampa’s off-season

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From where I am sitting it appears the Bucs for the first time in over a decade have a plan. That plan starts and stops with Lovie Smith. I personally think the Bucs got a top 5 coach in Smith. If you look at his record in Chicago it is pretty damn impressive. This is a guy who got a pretty good team to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as his QB. And got fired for going 10-6. Oh, how Tampa would love to have such problems with their coaches.

The similarities between the ’06 Bears and the ’14 Bears are worth taking a look at. The ’06 Bears had an untested and marginally talented fourth year pro, Rex Grossman as their QB. The Bears went 13-3 with a swarming, talented defense, incredible special teams (don’t forget that ’06 was Devon Hester record-breaking year) and an offense that was run oriented with Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones at RB and passed just enough to get by.

The Bucs actually have more weapons on offense with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (pending his legal problems) at WR and a host of serviceable backs led by RB Doug Martin (who should come back 100% after a season ending torn labrum in his shoulder). Glennon is a marginally talented QB who actually might have more upside than Rex Grossman ever had. This is a Bucs defense that at least on paper stacks up favorably. If there was a team in need of an attitude adjustment and a change of atmosphere it is the Post-Schiano Tampa Bay Bucs. Talent-wise the cupboard is not bare.

And look at the staff Smith has put together. Compared to the rinky-dink college rah, rah staff that Schiano assembled, this staff for the most part is first-rate. It is a mix of experience and first timers, along with a good assembly of guys who played in the NFL and will immediately identify with today’s NFL player. I am a little worried that he hired his son, and defensive line coach Joe Cullen is the same Cullen who was caught driving through the Wendy’s drive through stark raving naked. That said, it doesn’t mean he can’t coach. It’s worth noting that he did keep his clothes on for the three years he coached up in Jacksonville.

The coordinators Leslie Frazier and Jeff Telford are first-rate. Frazier played on the ’85 Bears defense (and actually led the team in interceptions) and while he had some struggles as the Vikings’ head coach, there is no denying his defensive mind. In fairness to Frazier’s stint in Minnesota, he did lead the Vikings to the biggest single-season turn around in franchise history. Plus, let’s not forget, Smith himself will be deeply involved in what the defense is doing. I know he left under a cloud at Cal but, I like Jeff Telford as the offensive coordinator. He knows how to coach quarterbacks having been Aaron Rodgers coach at Cal and has helped groom six collegiate QBs into first round picks.

Hardy Nickerson comes on board to coach the linebackers and Tim Spencer the running backs. Both had nice NFL careers and are making their way up through the coaching trees. Both should mesh nicely with the players. Lovie Smith added Carlos Polk to work with the special teams and this is a guy who had a nice 8 year NFL career playing special teams. It’s also worth noting that Larry Marmie has been coaching defense since 1972.

Plus, Smith has a demeanor and style that should be refreshing for both the players and the fans. He’s a no-nonsense, what you see is what you get kind of guy who demands respect the minute he walks into the locker room, press conference or out the tunnel on game day. He is a protégé of Tony Dungy and everyone in Tampa knows how well that worked out.

There should be nothing but excitement about this staff. And this staff alone might be worth 3 or 4 more wins next year.

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