Two weeks and two disappointing last-minute losses have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sitting at 0-2 and on the brink of potential disaster.
Since 2008, no team has made the playoffs after starting the season 0-2, which means head coach Greg Schiano and the Buccaneers could be in store for a long season.
Much of the blame for Tampa Bay's early struggles has been placed on fifth-year quarterback Josh Freeman, whose absence at the official team photo session appears to have instigated both a players-only meeting in the locker room and plenty of negative media attention outside of it.
At the very least, we know that Freeman was stripped of his position as a team captain this year, and there is a disconnect somewhere between Freeman, Schiano, and the rest of the team.
The question is, what if Freeman isn't the real problem in Tampa Bay at all?
Sure, the former Kansas State star has struggled to string together wins for his team over the last couple of years, and his future beyond 2013 is in question. However, football is a team game, bigger than any one individual player.
If there is one man solely responsible for the Buccaneers' recent struggles, it may actually be Schiano.
Hired away from Rutgers University prior to the 2012 season, Schiano brought with him a passionate, no-nonsense attitude that was meant to turn an inconsistent Buccaneers team into a disciplined and cohesive unit.
Unfortunately, Schiano's disciplinarian personality has not been embraced by all members of the Buccaneers team. The problem may be bigger than anyone outside of the locker room realizes.
Last offseason, tight end Kellen Winslow pointed to Schiano's hard-nosed style of coaching as a major reason why he wanted out of Tampa Bay.
More recently, a more influential player has reportedly spoken out against Schiano, this time in regards to his on-field decision-making on top of his personality. According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, star cornerback Darrelle Revis has complained about Schiano's strict style of coaching.
Garafolo also reported that Revis has criticized his coach's overuse of zone coverages on defense, when more man coverage would seem to make better use of Revis' presence.
This begs a couple of questions. First, has Schiano completely lost the support of his own locker room?
It's hard to tell how big of a rift there is between Freeman and Schiano, but it's never a good thing when the relationship between the starting quarterback and head coach is being questioned by the media. Assuming Revis' comments are true, one has to wonder if the team is wary of Schiano's coaching ability.
If the losses continue to pile up, the team could quit on him, Schiano will find himself firmly on the hot seat.
Perhaps an even bigger question is whether disciplinarian head coaches have a place in today's NFL.
There was a time when NFL coaches were not too different from their authoritarian collegiate counterparts. However, in the new age of multimillion dollar contracts, social media and endorsement deals, coaches have grown accustomed to placating players on a regular basis.
While the head coach is unlikely to ever be overpowered by the individual player, it is clear that as players become increasingly pampered, the ability of a head coach to rule with an iron fist is greatly diminished.
Of course, one can always point to guys like Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin and their apparent no-nonsense styles of coaching, but remember that these are guys who have developed a track record of success.
If there is one thing players respect more than money, it's winning.
For a head coach like Schiano, who inherited a reclamation project with the Buccaneers, building a winning record will be a long and tedious process. And with his long-term future uncertain, Schiano may not have enough time to build up a successful reputation.
The more that disciplinarian coaches like Schiano fail, the less willing NFL teams will be to give them an opportunity.
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