Just a few weeks back, many — including TBC — were suggesting the days were numbered for head coach Lovie Smith. Rightfully so.
The team was unable to do much collectively as they were giving up plays, leaving plays out on the field, they even looked like a confused bunch more often than not. It was a season that started out looking like they would mirror the frustration of 2014 especially after their Week 1 debacle that featured a visibly disappointed general manager entering the media elevator following the game.
But the team has come a long way since. With a 2-3 record at the bye week, Tampa Bay has flipped that record to 3-2 since with a heartbreaking, final minute loss to Washington which has many saying “what if”.
Their success has been largely in part due to — are you ready for this? — Lovie Smith. Why? Smith has turned the corner himself. His defense, particularly the secondary, could not seem to get anything right. An 80-year-old could easily run routes against these cornerbacks but as he continued to shuffle the lineup to find the right formula, he did, coming to the correct mix of guys two weeks ago in the loss against the New York Giants. He finally decided to play the guys his front office brought in and no longer relied on his guys.
“This week we talked a lot about back-to-back wins. I know that’s small to everybody else, but to us, it’s something we haven’t done in a long time,” Smith said following Sunday’s 45-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. “The guys really believed it, to get to .500. We’ve talked a lot about being relevant again. We’re relevant again.”
Now while the team still needs some work, the term relevant may be a bit of a stretch. However, you can’t deny the fact that the team has played well since the ol’ ball coach made the necessary changes.
We’re seeing guys like linebacker Lavonte David finally playing at the level we are used to seeing him play, largely in part because he only has to concern himself with just his responsibilities. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is setting rookie passing records. Running back Doug Martin is running like a man with a purpose. Veteran cornerback Sterling Moore is shutting down the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver, playing like he should have been starting since Week 1.
It all equates to a 2-1 record since Smith did what he did with the personnel.
For that, he deserves credit. The team deserves credit. And at 5-5 with one game out of the final playoff spot with six games remaining, they have hit the part of the season where they may have in fact put it all together.