(Reuters) - Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has taken over as head coach of the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a five-year contract, the National Football League (NFL) team announced on Thursday.
Smith, who was linebackers coach at Tampa Bay from 1996 to 2000 as part of Tony Dungy's initial staff, replaces Greg Schiano, who was fired by the club on Monday after two mediocre seasons in charge.
"Today is an exciting day for the Buccaneer organization, and the entire Tampa Bay community, as we welcome back Lovie Smith," Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement.
"We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead our team into a new era of Buccaneer football. Lovie is an accomplished and very well-respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career."
Smith, 55, was 81-63 after nine seasons with the Bears, leading them to three division titles and the Super Bowl in 2006 when they were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts. Under his guidance, the Bears defense ranked among the best in the NFL,
He was sacked by Chicago in December 2012 after the team ended the season with a 10-6 record but missed the playoffs for a fifth time in six years.
Smith will take over a Buccaneers franchise in urgent need of a re-build after finishing a lowly 15th in the 16-team National Football Conference last year.
In a bid to wipe the slate clean, Tampa Bay dropped Schiano as coach on Monday and also ditched general manager Mark Dominik.
"The results over the past two years have not lived up to our standards and we believe the time has come to find a new direction," Glazer said.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue