Lovie Smith is out after two years in Florida.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer released a statement Wednesday night, announcing Smith's firing:
"After careful consideration, we informed Lovie that we have decided to make a change. I want to thank Lovie for his hard work and dedication to the Buccaneers during his time here. This decision was difficult on a variety of levels. I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve. As we move forward, general manager Jason Licht will oversee the process for finding our next head coach."
This is easily the biggest surprise of all the NFL coaching moves this week.
Just a month ago, Buccaneers fans considered Smith a dark horse candidate for NFL Coach of the Year honors. Buoyed by new face of the franchise Jameis Winston, Smith had his team in the thick of the NFC wild card race at 6-6.
The Bucs fell apart over the final month, however, losing four straight to become the first team with five consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC South.
While Dirk Koetter's offense showed plenty of promise with Winston as the centerpiece, Smith's defense wasn't any better than the 2-14 unit he presided over in 2014. Smith released Darrelle Revis, traded former first-round safety Mark Barron, hand-picked his own secondary and oversaw the two worst pass defenses in franchise history.
Minus the opportunity to oversee the completion of his program, Smith will finish his Tampa Bay career with an 8-24 record over two seasons.
It makes no sense for Winston to start over with a new offensive system. For that reason and others, it's natural to wonder if the possibility of losing Koetter contributed to Licht's decision.
Koetter was reported to be on the radar for several head-coaching openings after overseeing Matt Ryan's rise in Atlanta and Winston's development in Tampa Bay.
Licht will conduct a thorough coaching search with several candidates over the next week or so. It will be interesting to see if Koetter is ultimately promoted when the process is completed.