TAMPA (FOX 13) - When he wasn't hired as a NFL head coach, Mike Smith knew exactly where he'd be going: Tampa Bay.
"This would be the one place that I would come," said Smith. "I'm very excited because of my relationship with Dirk [Koetter]."
It was clear just how close the coaches were when Koetter announced Smith would be his defensive coordinator last week.
"[It's a] huge hire for us," said Koetter.
The Buccaneers new head coach said he will rely on the man he coached under for three seasons in Atlanta, and Smith is hoping to return the favor.
"I've relied on Dirk for many things from different viewpoints," said Smith. "He was a very instrumental part of our staff there in Atlanta."
In his year away from the field, Smith spent part of his time co-authoring a book about leadership. In it, he describes how building a winning locker room and a winning culture are critical to building a winning team.
"As leaders and as coaches, you've got to always be feeling the heartbeat of what's going on in the team," said Smith. "I think when you go away from that, you can lose the culture very quickly."
"I believe this. It can change for the good just like that, and it can change for the bad just like that."
Right away, Smith wants his defense to focus on three things on the field: takeaways, getting off the field on third downs, and stopping the run.
"What you have to have to be successful on the defensive side of the football, is you've got to have the ability to stop the run," said Smith.
"Because if not, it's a slow death."
With him, Smith will bring a 4-3 defense, which is best suited for the Bucs personnel. Smith says the team won't be limited to just that, he wants to mix up the looks to challenge opposing quarterbacks and offenses.
"It's going to be very flexible," said Smith. "In this day and age, you have to give different looks. You can't line up in the same look and same front every time."
Penalties are also a main point of concern.
The Bucs were one of two teams who caused the most flags to be thrown this regular season.
"On defense, you have to play penalty-free football," said Smith. "If you don't, you're getting a lot of opportunities to have the spot fouls."
"As a defense, we're going to strive to play on the edge, not over the edge."
Lucky for the Bucs, the Falcons were some of the least penalized teams during Smith's time there.