After being fired by the Chicago Bears following the 2012 NFL season, Lovie Smith did lots of reflecting on his own life, watched plenty of football in his basement in Chicago and hoped he would soon be back in the league as a head coach.
That came true earlier this week, and Monday morning Smith was formally introduced as the 10th head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The hiring was a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who spent five seasons as the linebackers coach in Tampa Bay before being hired by St. Louis as a defensive coordinator.
"When you're off for a year, you get a chance to watch a lot of football games. And I really like the foundation that's here," Smith said. "I'm excited about being here, excited about taking the next step and improving our ball club to get back to where we belong."
Smith now takes over a Bucs team that won just four games a year ago under Greg Schiano. The team has a potential franchise quarterback in Mike Glennon, as well as significant offensive contributors in running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Filling the roster out comes second, Smith said, to putting together the right staff.
Smith has already hired former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford as offensive coordinator and former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator.
The decision to hire Tedford was an easy one, Smith said. He said he was looking for a coordinator who was a quarterback guru -- Tedford coached Aaron Rodgers at Cal and is considered one of the better quarterback coaches around -- and that shared the same philosophies as he did. That man was Tedford.
"We spent a couple days together in my basement in Chicago and merged our philosophies on how we wanted to play offensive football," Smith said. "A power running attack, I think you have to have balance with the offense (and) at the same time, being able to pass the ball and have a big-play ability in the passing game.
"We're excited about putting it all together, competing and having our offense merge with our defense."
Frazier and Smith had always wanted to work together, and now they'll get that chance. Smith called hiring Frazier, who was fired by the Vikings last week, a "no-brainer."
He hopes to fill out the rest of his coaching staff in the near future. And whoever fills those shoes, all future coaches will have one thing in common:
"Stern teachers that can relate to players," Smith said of what he's looking for in his staff. "After you get that staff together, then it's about getting the personnel. In the end, it's the players out there and getting a certain type of players, athletes at very position.
"And then just day-to-day keeping a positive attitude in the building where everyone feels good about coming here."
Part of that positive attitude will come by former players having open invitations to stop by the facility at any time. Smith was part of that Tampa Bay defense under Tony Dungy in the late 90s that eventually went on to win a Super Bowl, including Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and others.
"We want our players to feel the pressure of how they're supposed to perform every week," Smith said. "We're going to draw on that as much as we can."
He also spoke glowingly of Glennon, who took over for Josh Freeman after Freeman and Schiano continued to butt heads in the locker room. In 13 starts, Glennon threw for more than 2,600 yards, 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. His 83.9 passer rating was 21st in the NFL for qualifying quarterbacks.
"As a quarterback you have to demand respect, the guy that commands it by his action," Smith said. "Mike was one of the first guys here early, looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Hey, coach, I don't know about the rules. When can we get started?' What i like from him, he's got a strong arm and great pocket presence. Mike won't win a 40-yard sprint but he can move around in the pocket good enough. He makes smart decisions and there's nothing like the experience he was able to get."
Smith will have his work cut out for him in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL -- the Saints and Panthers, as he noted, are still in contention in the NFC playoffs -- but for now he's excited to have reunited with his old team in a city where he still has a home.
"When you talk about coming home, that says an awful lot," Smith said.