January 7, 2014 11:33:18 AM
TAMPA, Fla. -- Lovie Smith spent the past year watching lots of football, analyzing himself, and preparing for his next job in the NFL.
"How many times in life do you get a chance to take a break and really evaluate everything that you've done and who you are as a man in every situation. That's what I was able to do," Smith said Monday after being formally introduced as the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, charged with the task of transforming a struggling team into a championship contender.
"From fending off wild monkeys in Costa Rica with my wife ... to just analyzing every situation that came up," in his first NFL head coaching stint with the Chicago Bears. "I'm a football fan, and I think every time I saw something related to football it helped me, and I just put myself in those situations to make me a better football coach now."
One of Smith's first acts was to add former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, of Columbus, to his staff as defensive coordinator. Frazier, who is entering his 16th season as a NFL coach, spent the last three full seasons as the Vikings' head coach. In 2012, Frazier set a Vikings record by improving the team's win total by seven victories and earning a wild card berth. Frazier joined Minnesota in 2007 as defensive coordinator. He was named assistant head coach in 2008 before being promoted to interim head coach for the final six games of the 2010 season. While working as defensive coordinator, Frazier's units finished in the top 10 three times (sixth in 2008 and 2009, eighth in 2010).
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Leslie Frazier and I consider myself very fortunate to have him on my staff," Smith said. "Leslie is one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL and he has a long track record of helping players reach their full potential. He transformed Minnesota's defense into one of the league's elite units during his time there and I look forward to working with him to do the same here in Tampa Bay."
Smith won 10 games in 2012 -- his last season in Chicago -- but was fired after missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. Frazier wasn't retained last week after the Vikings finished the season 5-10-1.
The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007 and haven't won a postseason game since a Super Bowl run in 2002 produced the franchise's only NFL title.
The Glazer family that owns the team expects the drought to end with the hiring of Smith, a one-time Bucs assistant who coached the Bears from 2004-12, winning 81 games and three division championships in nine seasons. Chicago appeared in two NFC title games and one Super Bowl under him.
Smith is confident he has what it takes to lead the Bucs back among the league's elite.
"When you get fired on 10-6, that's not saying you don't know what you're doing," Smith said. "When you get fired, and your last three years are 12 wins and an NFC championship game, eight wins after you lose your quarterback when you're 7-3 and then 10-6, that's not saying let me change everything because you got this whole thing (wrong), so we're just going to tweak, and then go from there."
Smith replaces Greg Schiano, fired last week after compiling an 11-21 record over the past two years, including a 4-12 finish that included an 0-8 start this season.
Frazier will play a key role in helping to transform the Bucs. In seven seasons in Minnesota, Frazier's defense recorded the most sacks in the NFL (297) and the second-most forced fumbles (114). In 2009, the team posted an NFL-best 48 sacks. While in Minnesota, Frazier played a key role in the development of defensive end Jared Allen, who has posted an NFL-leading 85 1/2 sacks since joining the Vikings in 2008.
The Vikings run defense stacked up as one of the league's best under Frazier, allowing only 94.8 rushing yards per game - the second-lowest total in the NFL during that seven year span - including 2007 (74.1 yards per game) and 2008 (76.9 ypg.), when it was the No.1 run defense in the league. Frazier also played a role in the development of Pro Bowl and All-Pro defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, both key anchors to Minnesota's stout run defense.
Prior to joining Minnesota, Frazier worked in Indianapolis, as a defensive assistant (2005) and assistant to the head coach/defensive backs coach (2006), helping lead the 2006 Super Bowl Championship team. Under his tutelage, safety Bob Sanders became the first Colts defensive back to earn a Pro Bowl selection since 1971. Frazier helped the Colts defense to an 11th overall ranking in 2005, after having ranked 29th in yards per game in 2004.
Frazier came to Indianapolis from the Cincinnati Bengals, where he served as defensive coordinator from 2003-04. He entered the NFL in 1999 as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs coach, a position he held for four seasons. During his time with the Eagles, he helped cornerback Troy Vincent earn four Pro Bowl berths, while safety Brian Dawkins earned three trips. In his final three seasons with the team, Philadelphia advanced to the playoffs each year, including back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances.
Frazier spent 11 seasons as a collegiate coach before entering the NFL, getting his coaching start as the inaugural head coach at Trinity International University, a position he held from 1988-96. Taking over the new program, he helped lead the team to two Northern Illinois Intercollegiate Conference titles. The school later named the football field in his honor. Following his stint as head coach at Trinity, Frazier spent two seasons (1997-98) as the defensive backs coach at the Illinois.
An All-America defensive back at Alcorn State, Frazier played six seasons for the Chicago Bears (1981-86), including starting on the 1985 Super Bowl championship team and leading the team in interceptions three consecutive seasons (1983-85). He and his wife, Gale, have three children: Kieron, Chantel, and Corey.