Lovie Smith had success with the Chicago Bears from 2004-12 deploying the Tampa-2 scheme. The Bears went as far as Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season, and Smith created a millennial Monsters of the Midway.
After failing to have similar success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014-15, Smith went to the college game, coaching the University of Illinois from 2016-20. However, during that five-season span, Illinois never had a winning season and just one bowl appearance at the end of the 2019 campaign.
According to Smith, who met with the Houston media via Zoom on April 8, the problem was he couldn’t fully deploy his defense at the college level.
“In college, we weren’t able to run our entire system,” Smith said. “Most of the time you go three receivers, we kept our base defense on the field. We didn’t play our nickel package as much. I think our defense is more suited for the NFL game and we’ll make the tweaks and the things like that, but we feel pretty good about what I’ve seen.”
Although Smith was coaching Illinois, he still kept tabs on the pro game every Sunday.
“You watch football each week and you try to keep up on what all is going on, trends that are going on in college and of course with the NFL, too,” said Smith.
Smith has his work cut out for him as he attempts to rebuild a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL. Contrasted with Smith’s best season with the Bears, where the defense procured 44 takeaways, the 2020 Texans produced a paltry nine through 16 games. One of the hallmarks of a Smith defense, particularly with the Tampa-2 scheme, is takeaways. If Houston can start cultivating free possessions, it will give fans the sense that the recovery from last year’s 4-12 campaign is going well.