TAMPA — The Bucs are close. I thought that watching Gerald McCoy in 2013. Or Lavonte David. Or Darrelle Revis.
They're next year's Panthers. They're next year's Chiefs.
Or are they?
The Bucs aren't close. I thought that watching the offense in 2013. Or the line struggling. Or wondering if Mike Glennon was really the answer. Or seeing there's still no edge pass rusher.
Here's what we do know:
Lovie Smith is close. He's close to being introduced Monday afternoon as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach.
There's a lot of Feel Good around here right now, much of it justified, at least atmosphere wise.
But we really don't know, do we?
We don't know how Lovie Smith will try to carry the day, or everyone he'll try to do it with, from front office to staff to personnel, to draft approach to free agency. That's what always makes a new coach a new kind of world.
Yes, we're familiar with Lovie Smith from old Bucs days, great days, when this franchise emerged from the ooze.
That was then.
Lovie helped make the defense a Tampa 2 terror. Then he went to St. Louis as Rams defensive coordinator and made that side of the ball a force, overshadowed as it was by the Rams offense, the greatest show on turf. He transformed the Bears defense, and also the offense at times.
Basically, the Bucs are going from hiring a head coach who won eight games a season at Rutgers to hiring a guy who somehow helped take Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl. Then again, Lovie initially preferred Kyle Orton over Jay Cutler …
What will we get this time around?
We can talk about how close the Bucs are all we want, I'm still not sure Mike Glennon is the quarterback.
At the very least, he needs to be pushed. He needs competition. He needs mentoring.
We have no idea if Lovie will be smitten with Glennon, or if it will be the same for Jeff Tedford, former Cal head coach, master QB groomer, a man who nevertheless has no real NFL experience and appeared slightly out of gas at the end of his college coaching days.
Smith helped make Tampa 2 the coin of the realm in the NFL. So what would that mean for Revis, one of the best cover corners in the game? Are his days here numbered? Does Lovie adjust to Revis?
I think Smith has that in him. He was already moving away from the Tampa 2 in Chicago.
Then there's the offensive line. It was supposed to be a Bucs strength in 2013, but wasn't. Donald Penn had a lousy season and Davin Joseph seems all beat up. Then there's Carl Nicks.
Part of me thinks let it be, it will turn around.
Part of me thinks Penn and Joseph are done.
What does Lovie think?
There's that missing edge rusher, the one the Bucs have been searching for ever since Simeon Rice left. With former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier coming in as defensive coordinator, would that give the Bucs any kind of inside track to free-agent sack guy Jared Allen?
Back to the draft, and Glennon.
There are going to be quarterbacks at the Bucs' No. 7 pick. It looks like Teddy Bridgewater and now even Johnny Manziel will be gone, but the Bucs could always move up and try to grab a QB.
What does Lovie think he needs?
Or maybe pick a defensive pass rusher like UCLA's Anthony Barr, or stay put and grab an offensive lineman, or a receiver (did anyone see Clemson's Sammy Watkins in the Orange Bowl?) or maybe the Bucs will pick a receiver later. A standout tight end is a need, still.
There are way too many questions, at least from us.
We don't know the answers.
It's Lovie Smith's turn to chart the course.