“I am excited about what we are building here in Tampa Bay and would like to thank the Glazer family, Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter for showing faith in what we are doing on the defensive side of the ball,” said Smith. “I think we grew quite a bit as a defense this past season and I look forward to working with my staff and our players to continue building upon what we have started. While I did have a chance to speak with a few organizations about head coaching opportunities earlier this offseason, it became very clear to me that I am in an ideal situation here with the Buccaneers. For the next couple years, I am fully committed and focused on my role with Dirk and the organization and will not be pursuing head coaching opportunities during this time.”
In 2016, Smith’s first season with Tampa Bay, he oversaw a defensive turnaround that had the team going from 26th in the NFL in points allowed in 2015 to 15th in the league in 2016. Smith’s defense last season forced 29 takeaways, the third-highest mark in the league, including 17 interceptions, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. The Buccaneers also held opponents to a league-low 34.4 third down percent conversion rate in 2016, the best mark by a Tampa Bay defense since 2003 and an improvement from ranking 30th in 2015. Under Smith, the Buccaneers defense posted 38 sacks last season, tied for the ninth-highest mark in the league and tied for the most by a Tampa Bay defense since 2004.
“Mike Smith is quite simply one of the best coaches I have had the opportunity to work with and I am thrilled to know that he has committed to remain with us for the foreseeable future,” said Koetter. “In addition to being a great teacher on the field and in the meeting rooms, Mike has consistently been able to get the most out of his players and that was never more evident than this past season. The growth and exceptional play of our defense in the second half of the season played a major factor in our success and Mike, along with the rest of the defensive staff, deserves much of that credit. I can’t say enough about the job he did this past season and I am excited to have him leading our defense for years to come.”
Smith’s defense improved as the season progressed, allowing the fourth-fewest points per game over the final eight weeks of the season (17.1), while leading the league with 13 interceptions, tying for a league-low six touchdown passes allowed and holding opponents to a 72.9 passer rating, the second-lowest mark in the NFL during that time. Tampa Bay recorded 21 sacks during the final eight weeks of the season, tied for the fifth-most in the league during that span.
Under Smith’s guidance, a number of Buccaneers players posted banner seasons. Cornerback Brent Grimes, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate in his first season with Tampa Bay, tied for the team lead in interceptions, with four, while leading the NFL in passes defensed, with 24. Linebacker Lavonte David was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate while recording 17 tackles for loss, tied for the league lead. David was also one of only two players to record at least 80 tackles and 5.0 sacks (also Benardrick McKinney). Linebacker Kwon Alexander led the team in tackles, with 145, the fourth-most in the NFL, including a league-best 108 solo tackles. Tampa Bay’s three safeties (Chris Conte, Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy) combined for 207 tackles, 23 passes defensed and eight interceptions. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection after leading the team with 7.0 sacks, the fourth-most by a defensive tackle.