Jenna Laine: Lovie Smith’s Time Away from Football Helped Find Jeff Tedford

He spent nine years as head coach of the Chicago Bears before he was ousted after a 10-6 season and would not return to coach any team in 2012.

That meant Lovie Smith suddenly had a lot of time on his hands — time he would spend reflecting on his first NFL head coaching job and what he would have done differently.

“When you have time [off]…you can just sit there and do nothing, or like everything else, you try to get a little bit better,” Smith said after Monday’s press conference at One Buc Place.

“Every year as a coach in the offseason, we look for ways to improve. And I stayed with the same plan. I had a chance to go over every little detail, like minicamp, and what we’re gonna do every second of minicamp, having an extra minicamp, OTAs, offseason program and how we’re going to lay it out, training camp, gameday routine, how we’re traveling…you get a chance to go over all of that. So that’s what we did this year off.”

So, long before the Glazer family came calling, with some new ideas in place, Smith sought to find people he could work with, including finding an offensive coordinator that would complement his defense and infuse fresh ideas.

“I wanted a guy that knew that quarterback position in and out.  So I started looking around. It so happened that Jeff…of course, they had [made] a change at Cal. And I started talking with Jeff, and I did my research, and when you have time off, you have a chance to call around.”

Smith began making phone calls. He interviewed Tedford’s former pupils, including Aaron Rodgers, and studied video of Tedford’s offenses. The two linked up to watch tape in Smith’s Chicago basement.

“And then, I said, ‘Hey this could be something. Because I knew I wanted to do some things a little bit differently. And then when I got with Jeff — when you think about him being a quarterback guy, he had a 1,000-yard rusher, he had two [in] one year — [I found that] we really believed in the same things.”