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Originally published Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 9:14 PM

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Former Bears coach Lovie Smith agrees to take over Tampa Bay

Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is set to take on the challenge of rebuilding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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TAMPA, Fla. — Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is set to take on the challenge of rebuilding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Two people familiar with Smith’s plans said Wednesday night the coach has reached an agreement to fill the opening created by the firing of Greg Schiano after a 4-12 finish.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn’t been made. One of the people also said that former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will be the Bucs’ defensive coordinator.

The 55-year-old Smith will replace Schiano, fired Monday after going 11-21 in two seasons in Tampa Bay. Frazier also was fired Monday.

Smith was 81-63 in nine seasons with Chicago, leading the 2006 team to the Super Bowl — where the Bears lost to Indianapolis. He was fired a year ago after the Bears finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

Smith was Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from 1996 to 2000, then spent three seasons as the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator on Mike Martz’s staff.

Smith will take over a team that made strides on defense after acquiring cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson last spring. However, the offense sputtered badly after the abrupt benching and subsequent release of quarterback Josh Freeman. With rookie Mike Glennon running the offense, Tampa Bay sank to last in the NFL in passing and total yards per game.

One of Smith’s first orders of business figures to be deciding if Glennon, who went 4-9 as a starter while throwing for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, showed enough to prove he’s the team’s quarterback of the future.

Tampa Bay, which lost its first eight games before going 4-4 over the second half of the season, will have the seventh pick in this year’s draft and can use help in several areas, including defensive end, offensive line and wide receiver.

The Philadelphia Eagles will play host to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The game will feature a quarterback duel between No. 9 from Westlake High in Austin, Texas, and …

No. 9 from Westlake High in Austin, Texas.

Not only do they share the same number, but Drew Brees of the Saints and Nick Foles of the Eagles share the same high-school alma mater. It’s the Halley’s comet of NFL coincidences, with the last such occurrence being 1974, when Pittsburgh played Buffalo in a first-round game showcasing the Steelers’ Terry Bradshaw and the quarterback who succeeded him at Woodlawn High in Shreveport, La., Joe Ferguson of the Bills.

Foles and Brees never competed for the same job. At 34, Brees is 10 years older, but he did come back to his high school when his team was honored on the 10th anniversary of its most recent state-championship season. That halftime celebration was in 2006, when Foles was the starting quarterback for Westlake.


• Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was cleared to play in Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against Indianapolis after recovering from a concussion, though the status of linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and right tackle Eric Fisher (groin) remains uncertain. Neither player practiced.

• In the wake of the Miami Dolphins’ late-season collapse, owner Stephen Ross began contemplating a possible organizational shake-up. Second-year offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is considered the most likely to be fired, and sixth-year general manager Jeff Ireland’s job is also in serious jeopardy. Coach Joe Philbin is likely to return for a third season.

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