Out of nowhere on Wednesday night the Buccaneers dismissed second-year head coach Lovie Smith, the team announced.
Tampa Bay improved from a two-win season (and the No. 1 overall pick) to 6-10 in 2015 and showed serious signs of improvement with first-round pick Jameis Winston under center.
However the Glazer family -- through a statement from Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer -- decided it was time to move on from Smith.
"After careful consideration, we informed Lovie that we have decided to make a change. I want to thank Lovie for his hard work and dedication to the Buccaneers during his time here," Glazer said in a statement. "This decision was difficult on a variety of levels. 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.
"As we move forward, general manager Jason Licht will oversee the process for finding our next head coach."
The move came out of nowhere, making it perhaps the most difficult offseason coaching move to parse. Here's six things to know about the Buccaneers' situation.
1. Not the first time for Lovie: Smith’s been fired rather surprisingly before. He got bounced by the Bears prior to his stint with Tampa, when he got canned after a 10-win season. Phil Emery took over as GM in Chicago before the 10-win season and decided to make some changes afterward (he fired Lovie and brought in Marc Trestman -- Emery has since been fired).
The Buccaneers only won eight games in Lovie’s tenure -- and only won their first home game in October of 2015 when they beat the Jaguars in Week 5. They closed out with four losses -- to the Saints, Rams, Bears and Panthers -- but felt like they were making a move towards being a playoff contender during the middle stretch of the season.
Some are going to say it was unfair for Lovie to get the boot. But you can also argue the Buccaneers are in a better spot now.
Count me among those who believe the Bucs will be far better positioned to win long-term when the dust settles on this love...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 7, 2016
2. All about the QB: Everyone knows it all revolves around the quarterback in today’s NFL. And here’s the rub with Lovie: He’s not an innovative offensive mind.
Doug Martin can thank him for whatever happens in terms of his contract status next year. Winston had a very nice season with 4,000 yards and only 15 interceptions, but expecting him to grow into the next great NFL quarterback in Lovie’s offense might be asking too much.
3. Other good pieces: The Bucs aren’t a barren roster either. Along with Winston there’s tall, dangerous wide receiver Mike Evans and a tall, dangerous tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Vincent Jackson could be a casualty but the skill position is strong here).
Seriously though, there’s some young talent on this roster.
4. Shock and awe: No one saw this coming. No one. Most players were shocked to find out about their coach being fired.
Even the assistants didn’t see it coming.
This caught the Buccaneers coaches completely off-guard. One Tampa assistant: "I have no idea. I'm in shock."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 7, 2016
5. Turnstile in Tampa: Let’s be honest. The Bucs haven’t had a great run the last few years. They’re one of the most consistently mediocre teams in the NFL.
Most consecutive seasons under .500 (active streaks) Rams: 9 Browns: 8 Buccaneers: 5 Jaguars: 5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2016
Part of the problem is a lack of patience from ownership. They’ve now run through Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith since 2002. Gruden won a title and was there for seven years and the Bucs are still averaging a coach every 3.25 years. Their last three coaches are getting an average of 2.3 years. That’s ... unacceptable.
6. Who's next? This is going to be a coveted job despite the high turnovers. Three names spring to mind immediately.
Josh McDaniels, who worked with Licht while the Bucs GM was with the Patriots. The market for McDaniels will be big this offseason, and if there’s a former co-worker who can talk him into joining an operation that’s out of the AFC (and thus Bill Belichick’s realm), it could make sense, particularly given his work with quarterbacks.
Chip Kelly, who was close to signing with Tampa before they landed Schiano but ultimately backed off the job. Kelly is the opposite of Lovie (in terms of offensive and defensive scheming) and would bring a little pizazz to Tampa. It remains to be seen how that relationship would work, but Kelly is a hot name out there.
Dirk Koetter, who is the current offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay and a reasonably popular name this offseason, considering: a) how good Jameis looked last year, and b) how bad Matt Ryan looked last year. Koetter was previously in Atlanta and jumped to Tampa with the new regime.