Second year. Second chance.
For the Tampa Bucs’ Lovie Smith, it is as simple as that. His second season with the Bucs is a chance to correct all his mistakes. It is a re-do, a second down if you will. When the Bucs report to camp Friday, it will be a fresh canvas.
Remember the mistake he made with Josh McKown at quarterback? This time, he tries again with Jameis Winston.
Remember the mistake he made with Ted Tedford at offensive coordinator? This time, he tries again with Dirk Koetter.
Remember the mistake he made with Anthony Collins at left tackle? This time, he tries it with Donovan Smith.
Remember the way he flubbed it with Michael Johnson? This time, he tries with the acquired-by-trade George Johnson.
Last year, his team won two. This year, well, we’ll see.
Despite Smith’s quiet misdemeanor, last year had to be a nightmare for him. After sitting out a year following a fairly successful stint with the Chicago Bears, Smith came in preaching confidence. Instead, his team found a way to lose six games of a touchdown or less – as many as his NFC foes combined – and saw his trust from the crowd ebb.
This year is a new chance. The team drafted a quarterback first in Jameis Winston, and if he turns out to be as good as the team suspects, they will be onto something. It is a quarterback’s league, but as a franchise, the Bucs have never had a lot at the position. Eventually, Winston may give them that.
Oh, there are other problems. On two-win teams, there always are. Can the offensive line be better than the cave-in of a year ago. Can there be a running game? How about a pass rush?
It’s often said that a player makes his biggest growth from his first year to his second. That’s when the NFL begins to tell him what he is. Well, it happens with coaches, too.
Remember Bill Walsh? He won two games in his first year with the 49ers? His second year, he won six. His third year? He won the Super Bowl.
Remember Jimmy Johnson? His first year, he won once. His second year, he won seven. His third year, he won the Super Bowl, too.
Even Smith, in his first stint with Chicago, followed the blueprint. He won five his first year. He won 11 his second. He reached the Super Bowl his third.
It happens. With New England, Bill Belichik improved by five wins in his second year. So did the Packers’ Mike McCarthy and the Bears’ Mike Ditka. The Colts under Don Shula, the Bucs under Tony Dungy, the Broncos under John Fox and the Steelers under Chuck Noll all improved by four wins.
So what does it all mean? Probably a six-eight win season for Tampa Bay this year.
Hopefully, a real team next year.