Buccaneers: Lovie Smith not fired over the phone

By The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 7, 2016 at 5:22 PM
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht disputed reports on Thursday that Lovie Smith was fired as head coach during a phone conversation rather than in a face-to-face meeting.

Licht told reporters that he reached out to Smith on Wednesday night to inform him that team co-chairman Joel Glazer wanted to meet Thursday to discuss the decision in person. The GM said Smith asked that Glazer call him. Smith then let team ownership know that a meeting would be necessary.

After the phone conversation, Smith went to his office and cleaned out his belongings.

Licht called Wednesday a challenging day after making the decision to fire Smith, who had a 8-24 record in two seasons with the Buccaneers.

Licht also disputed the notion that two years was not long enough to assess Smith, whose teams won two games in 2014 and improved to six wins in 2015 with rookie Jameis Winston at quarterback despite losing the last four games of the season.

"When you have eight wins in two years, three home wins in two years, they've been patient enough," Licht said of the Tampa Bay fans. "It does take time, but while you are building a good football team, you can compete. ...

"We felt the franchise needed a new face, a new coach, to get back to winning."

Some believe that the Buccaneers made the move in order to get a jump on hiring offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who is attracting head coaching interest from other teams. Licht acknowledged that Koetter is a strong candidate for the Tampa Bay job.

Licht said he has not spoken with any outside candidates for the opening.

"Our ownership, I commend them on the fact that they take their time, they think things through, they don't make emotional decisions, they don't make in-season decisions," Licht said. "They take in all the information."

Licht believes the Tampa Bay job is an attractive one based on its roster and in particular with Winston as its quarterback.

"I'll start with, once again, ownership that is not afraid to spend money," Licht said. "I'll then go into a quarterback, a 22-year-old quarterback, who I happen to believe is a franchise quarterback, that's a very strong asset to have, and that's one that many teams can't say that they have."

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