The Buccaneers have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Linebackers coach Mark Duffner will serve as Tampa Bay’s interim DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Smith’s firing shouldn’t come as a total surprise, as the Buccaneers have fielded one of the NFL’s worst defenses this season. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in points allowed per game (34.6) and 31st in yards per game, and has allowed a whopping 82 points over its past two contests, both of which were losses. The Buccaneers are now on pace to give up the most points in NFL history, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
Advanced metrics aren’t a fan of Smith’s Buccaneers defense, either, as the club ranks last in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, which measures overall efficiency. Tampa Bay also ranks poorly in pace stats, as the team is 31st in both yards allowed per drive and points allowed per drive. All of Football Outsiders’ metrics were calculated before the Buccaneers gave up 34 points to the Falcons on Sunday.
The Buccaneers attempted to revamp their defense over the offseason, especially along the defensive line, where they acquired Jason Pierre-Paul via trade, signed Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and drafted Vita Vea in the first round. However, Tampa Bay ranks just 27th in adjusted sack rate. That’s an untenable lack of pressure, especially given the Buccaneers’ problems in the secondary, where starters Chris Conte and Vernon Hargreaves are on injured reserve.
Smith, 59, was hired as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator prior to the 2016 campaign, and the Buccaneers made him the NFL’s highest-paid DC, per Rapoport (Twitter link). While the Bucs’ defense finished a respectable 13th in defensive DVOA in 2016, the unit fell to 32nd in 2017 before its struggles continued into this season. Smith, of course, was the Falcons’ head coach from 2008-14, compiling a 66-46 record during that time.
Duffner, meanwhile, offers a wealth of coaching experience, both at the collegiate and pro level. He’s been with the Buccaneers since 2016, and has previously held linebacker coach positions with the Bengals, Packers, Jaguars, and Dolphins. Duffner served as defensive coordinator (in addition to his positional duties) in 2001-02.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.