UPDATE: The Buccaneers announced Lovie Smith as the team's new head coach on Thursday. He signed a five-year deal with the club.
Lovie Smith will be the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Smith was considered a hot commodity on the open coaching market before this hire. Smith coached the Chicago Bears for nine seasons before being fired in 2012.
Making the playoffs is priority No. 1 for the Buccaneers, and Smith may help in that regard. The Bears made the playoffs three times under his watch, including a run to the Super Bowl in 2006, where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Smith's last playoff appearance was 2010. The Bears went 10-6 in 2012, but did not qualify for a wild card bid and Smith was let go after the season.
This won't be Smith's first stop in Tampa where he spent five years working for Tony Dungy, the same coach who led the Colts to their win over Chicago in that Super Bowl. He will now return to Florida to try and turn the Bucs around from their 4-12 finish in 2012. The Buccaneers have not made the playoffs since 2007. Smith also drew interest from the Texans and Lions in their head coaching searches.
Smith took the 2013 season off before reentering the coaching carousel. He was interviewed by the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions before signing on with the Buccaneers, who fired Greg Schiano after two years of service.
The Buccaneers hired Schiano from Rutgers in hopes that he could change the culture of losing in Tampa Bay. He finished the 2012 season with some positive buzz. The Bucs went 7-9 off a 4-12 season, and had a few promising players in running back Doug Martin, quarterback Josh Freeman and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Schiano's second season in Tampa Bay was a small-scale disaster, however. The locker room was rocked by an MRSA outbreak during the offseason, and the Schiano's seemingly orchestrated an ugly divorce with Freeman during the season. The Buccaneers went 4-12 again and Schiano was promptly shown the door.
Smith has a long record of success in the NFL, and the hope no doubt is that he can bring some stability to a franchise that burned through two head coaches in five years.
Glazer reports that the team and Smith are finalizing a deal on Wednesday evening.