Lovie ready for NFL return

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 11:21 p.m. CDT
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(AP file photo)
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith has reached an agreement to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

TAMPA, Fla. – Former Bears coach Lovie Smith is set to take on the challenge of rebuilding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Two people familiar with Smith’s plans said Wednesday night that the coach has reached an agreement to fill the opening created by the firing of Greg Schiano after a 4-12 finish.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hadn’t been made. One of the people also said former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will be the Bucs’ defensive coordinator.

Smith, 55, will replace Schiano, fired Monday after going 11-21 in two seasons in Tampa Bay. Frazier also was fired Monday.

Smith was 81-63 in nine seasons with the Bears, leading the 2006 team to the Super Bowl – where the Bears lost to Indianapolis. He was fired a year ago after the Bears finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

Smith was Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from 1996-2000, then spent three seasons as the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator on Mike Martz’s staff.

Smith will take over a team that made strides on defense after acquiring cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson last spring, however the offense sputtered badly after the abrupt benching and subsequent release of quarterback Josh Freeman. With rookie Mike Glennon running the offense, Tampa Bay sank to last in the NFL in passing and total yards per game.

One of Smith’s first orders of business figures to be deciding whether Glennon, who went 4-9 as a starter while throwing for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, showed enough to prove he’s the team’s quarterback of the future.

Tampa Bay, which lost its first eight games before going 4-4 over the second half of the season, will have the seventh pick in this year’s draft and can use help in several areas, including defensive end, offensive line and receiver.

• AP sports writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and AP pro football writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.

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