Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier have several things in common. Both are former assistants of Tony Dungy and students of his Tampa-2 Defense. Plus as of Monday, both had a fair amount of success with NFC North teams that went on to fire them.
The Buccaneers and Smith are very close to agreeing to a four-year contract that will make Smith the new head coach in Tampa Bay according to USA Today. The 55-year-old will replace Greg Schiano, who went 11-21 in two seasons and was fired on Monday.
Smith's career has come full circle as the coach is returning to the team that first hired him in 1996. Smith served as linebackers coach for Tampa Bay from 1996-2000 under Dungy. Then, he left for St. Louis to become defensive coordinator before becoming head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2004.
With Chicago from 2004-2012, Smith posted an 84-66 career record, won three division titles and won an NFC Championship before losing Super Bowl XLI to Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts.
Frazier's career actually began playing for the Bears in 1981. After serving as Eagles defensive backs coach from 1999-2002 and then Bengals defensive coordinator for two seasons, Frazier was the defensive backs coach on Dungy's Super Bowl Champion Colts. Minnesota then hired Frazier to be defensive coordinator, and he was promoted to head coach during the 2010 season.
As head coach, Frazier had a 20-33-1 record with one playoff apperance.
Although the two never coached on the same staff, it seems the two coaches would be a natural fit together in Tampa Bay as both ran the Tampa-2 Defense with their NFC North teams.
Chicago always one of the top defenses during Smith's tenure, and Tampa Bay already has some great peices on defense for the pair to build around. Gerald McCoy is still a young defensive tackle that with improvement can dominate the defensive line. Furthermore, Darrelle Revis and DeShon Goldson anchor a secondary that is reminiscent of the great ones in Chicago over the last ten years.
ESPN.com, however, reports that Rod Marinelli will join Smith as defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay instead of Frazier. If true, Marinelli would also be returning to the original team that hired him to coach the defensive line in 1996.
Smith and Marinelli coached on the same staff in Tampa Bay and then Smith hired Marinelli to be his defensive line coach in 2009. Marinelli served as defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys this past season.
Ironically, Marinelli was also the head coach an NFC North team: the Detriot Lions from 2006-2008 and was fired after finishing 0-16 in 2008.
Tampa Bay was smart in hiring Lovie Smith who is an immediate upgrade over Greg Schiano. If the franchise wants to continue its strong initial offseason, the Buccaneers ownership should allow Smith to hire both Frazier and Marinelli. One as defensive coordinator and the other as a position coach on defense.
In one year, the Buccaneers could go from having a head coach with one previous season of experience (Schiano's first season), to having three former head coaches on the staff, all with something to prove to the NFC North, the exact division Tampa Bay plays next season.