(Photos courtesy of the Tampa Bay Bucs)
Talk of Fame Network
Lovie Smith coached with and against some of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, so he knows what to look for at the position. And what he found in Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston are qualities he believes can make him ... as he put it ... "one of the all-time great types."
Now the head coach at the University of Illinois, Smith said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast that he has “no doubt” Winston can be one of the game’s “special” quarterbacks.
Of course, Smith’s also the guy who drafted Winston and served as his head coach in Winston’s rookie season, so he’s not exactly unbiased. But he has no attachments to Tampa Bay, either, fired after going 6-10 in his second season there … with, you guessed it ... Jameis Winston.
“He has everything you’re looking for in an elite leader,” said Smith. “Great player. One of the all-time great types. He can make all the throws as a quarterback. Comes into the room, and you want to follow him.”
When it was suggested it's unfortunate he couldn’t take Winston with him to Illinois, Smith didn’t disagree.
“It’s all about finding that next Jameis Winston,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Smith was hired at Illinois earlier this month as the school’s third head coach in seven months, charged to resurrect a program that experienced only three winning seasons in the past 14 years. Of course, pumping life into a program was the job he undertook in Tampa Bay when he supplanted Greg Schiano in 2014, but Smith lasted only two seasons … and was 8-24 during that time.
That’s the bad news. The good is that the Bucs improved last season, winning four more games than in 2014 and seemed, as Smith put it, “headed in the right direction.” But owners didn’t agree, and he was cashiered – a move that was almost as surprising as when the Bears fired him following a 10-6 finish in 2012.
They haven't had a winning season since.
“When you get into this business,” he said, “you can’t really be surprised. It is a business, and things happen that you don’t expect. I’d just say with Chicago, it’s good to be back in the state again. It’s hard winning 10 games in the NFL. Most of the time when you win 10 games that organization is pretty excited about the direction you’re going. That was definitely a surprise.
“Tampa Bay was a little bit different of a situation. We didn’t win enough games, if you just go on the record. I can see progress was made. A lot of things happened the first year. Progress was made the second year. I thought we had set ourselves up to have a great defensive draft and get back to put ourselves in position to compete for another championship.”
And maybe they have. Only Smith won’t be along for the ride, another casualty of a business where patience is under constant attack.
“There’s just not a lot of patience,” Smith said. “When you own a team you can do whatever you like. But if you make a change normally there’s something wrong. But there are no quick fixes in life in general. You have to stay with, in our case, the plan and just have a little bit more patience. There were some reasons to have patience, but you move on as much as anything.”