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Was Lovie Smith given a fair shake?

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Lovie Smith is out as the Buccaneers’ head coach. If it is any consolation – and it is not – he is far from alone. Few Buc fans can be satisfied with a losing season, but the pewter lining is Tampa Bay, and Lovie tripled their win total from two to six.

Not enough for Team Glazer. In a statement, Co-chairman Joel Glazer said, “I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve.”

Smith was responsible for the past two seasons, not the past few. Coaches, including those in Tampa Bay, are usually fired when the team is going downhill.

Raheem Morris was let go after his third year following a 4-12 season in 2011. The year before, the Bucs finished with a respectable 10-6 mark. How many remember Josh Freeman portraying the up-and-coming star?

In 2011, the offense flopped, and the defense was worse. No Buc team in history ever gave up more points (494) than that group. Morris took the fall.

Greg Schiano came in from Rutgers and the Bucs went 7-9 in 2012, but regressed to 4-12 the next season as the offense took a step backward. Out goes Schiano, in comes Lovie.

Tampa Bay was a mess in 2014. They not only went 2-14, but the pre-game tailgating was also the highlight of the home schedule where they went 0-8.

Despite the penalties, strategies and other factors, the 2015 Bucs showed clear improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Jameis Winston is no Josh Freeman. He is a bona fide up-and-coming star. Doug Martin is already there.

A third year was expected for Smith to continue improvement on both sides of the ball through experience and the draft. But it was not to be.

Smith is no stranger to being fired. A 10-6 record in his final season with the Chicago Bears was not enough to keep his job.

Stories will start to come out providing more insight into what really prompted the move. It is likely to be more than just about wins and losses. Some assistant coach, or coaches, may be part of the story.

Former Bucs Assistant Head Coach Herman Edwards (who was on Coach Tony Dungy’s staff with Smith) said on ESPN he thinks team ownership and management are “impatient.” Others will weigh in during the coming days.

Here’s a sobering thought. The Glazers just fired the coach who tied for the 14th best season in Tampa Bay’s 40-year history.

In the meantime, Smith will find work. If so many recycled coaches with losing records can find another gig, one with a career winning record should be able to do so. Smith is 89-87 in 11 seasons.

Based on what we know now, he deserved at least one more season. Until the full story comes out, the Bucs brain trust had better get the next personnel decision right.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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