In a move completely expected, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after the team’s latest dismal performance on defense in Sunday’s 34 – 29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Five games into his third season, Smith had been embattled for the last year and a half with a defense that was consistently unable to pressure the quarterback and constantly giving up tons of yardage and points.
The Buccaneers announced Smiths firing in a press release Monday afternoon and then Coach Dirk Koetter addressed the media about an hour later:
Tune in to Dirk Koetter's day-after-game press conference. https://t.co/BurkxVrqov
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 15, 2018
“We thank coach Smith for the effort, passion-everything he brought to the Bucs…..This is a production business, and we have to play better on defense.” Koetter was asked whether it was his decision alone to make the move and quickly and tersely answered “Yes.”
Koetter later described the move to fire Smith, as “the second toughest thing that I’ve ever had to do in coaching.”
He hand-picked Smith to come to Tampa Bay, when Koetter was elevated as the Buccaneers head coach in 2016. He had previously worked as Smith’s offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.
While Koetter was adamant that the decision was his and his alone, there’s been a firestorm of criticism on the airwaves, the internet and elsewhere around Smith and the lack of defensive success this season.
Sunday was the 17th time that Smith’s defense had given up at least 300 yards passing during his 2+ years tenure with the Buccaneers. It also came on the heels of Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky lighting them up for six TD passes in a 48-10 win two weeks ago before the bye.
Sunday was also the fourth consecutive loss to Smiths old team, the Falcons.
During Smith’s first season as defensive coordinator, the Buccaneers were struggling in the first half of the year. However that was being blamed on the new defense taking time to learn and adjust to. And to the credit of Smith, his staff and the players, the Bucs defense was significantly better the second half of that season creating turnovers and getting sacks, as the team won five straight games. The Bucs finished 9 and 7 and just missed the playoffs.
Smith coached the Falcons for seven seasons from 2008 – 14 and had winning seasons in each of his first five years with four playoff appearances. Koetter was his offensive coordinator for the last two seasons in Atlanta before Smith was fired.
Smith had previously been the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years from 2003 to 2007.
The Buccaneers have named linebackers coach Mark Duffner, as their defensive coordinator on an interim basis. Dufner is a longtime NFL assistant, who was also the Bengals defensive coordinator earlier in the 2000s.
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