There aren’t many hands raised, and who could blame you?
A “Fire Schiano” billboard in Tampa was a shock at first, but as more and more of the media establishment started coming over to the side of John Q. Public, the thought of Schiano losing his job became less of a stretch. “#FireSchiano” has become such a regular hashtag on Twitter during Tampa Bay games that it’s almost normal. And it’s not just the masses of Bucs Nation typing it in consistently.
Forget about Schiano’s 8-17 record as a head coach in the NFL for a moment. Let’s talk about how the man runs this Bucs regime.
One former Buc that played with Schiano in Tampa Bay in 2012 told Michael Silver of NFL.com that playing in an atmosphere controlled by Schiano was “like being in Cuba.”
Former players aren’t welcomed back to watch practice like they are at most NFL facilities. Just ask Super Bowl XXXVII Most Valuable Player Dexter Jackson, who told 98.7 the Fan that Schiano sent someone over to him when he was watching practice and “tried to run me out.”
Back in October, before the Buccaneers released quarterback Josh Freeman, Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated spoke to a number of agents of Tampa Bay players who mentioned stories of Orwellian “Big Brother” type methods and a general distrust of the establishment by the players.
In speaking with agents of several Bucs players recently, I have sensed a common theme: There is an atmosphere of fear and distrust under the current regime in Tampa. Players have told their agents about coaches roaming through the locker room (typically the players’ sanctuary away from coaches) and staff videotaping players on the sidelines during losses to single out players laughing or horsing around.
So, it’s no fun to play for Schiano. That’s the gist of it. But if it’s such a miserable atmosphere, and the Bucs have such a terrible record with Schiano at the helm, why does he still have a job?
It certainly has nothing to do with results on the field.
Prior to Tampa Bay’s Week 10 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay had lost eight straight. Go all the way back to last season and look at the final seven games of 2012 and the Bucs are 3-13 in Schiano’s last 16 games. The way 2013 is shaping up, it won’t be necessary to combine two terrible portions of seasons together to show Schiano’s win-loss shortcomings. It’d be amazing if Tampa Bay got to 3-13 during the 2013 season.
There’s also the matter of controlling Schiano’s players. Schiano wants total control and preaches discipline, but his team on the field is one of the least disciplined around.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Buccaneers are the most penalized team in the NFL in regard to penalty yardage assessed (78.4 yards per game) and rank 31st in the number of penalty flags per game (8.2).
There’s also the fact that no lead seems to be safe. Tampa Bay scored the first 21 points in Seattle in Week 9 and led 21-7 at the half. But the Seahawks came back in the second half and eventually won in overtime. The Buccaneers almost blew their 15-7 lead at halftime over the Dolphins.
Tampa Bay has allowed five come-from-behind victories to opponents through nine games; three losses have come on the last play of the game. Schiano’s teams have led at halftime five times this season and are only 1-4 in those games.
None of this sounds like a head coach that has what it takes manage and coach an NFL team.
But Schiano has a couple of things going for him, which may be why he’s still in a job. ESPN.com NFL Nation writer Pat Yasinskas wrote after the loss to Seattle that Schiano’s players were still fighting hard for him on the field and “you don’t pull the plug until the players stop playing hard for the coach.”
That’s a very good point. Anyone who’s watched the Bucs in recent years knows what it looks like when players give up on a coach. Raheem Morris is the perfect example of that. After starting the 2011 season 4-2, the Bucs lost their last 10 games and the players stopped fighting for Morris.
That led to Morris’ ousting and the hiring of Schiano.
The Bucs allowed Morris to stick around until the season was over, even though it was painfully obvious that he had lost control of the locker room and the team. Schiano will likely be given the same leash.
It’s hard to imagine a situation in Tampa where an interim head coach would be any better than running the rest of the season out under Schiano. Sure the players might be able to relax a bit more, but what would happen if the interim coach wasn’t effective? Might the locker room slip into chaos?
It’s better for the Buccaneers to stick with Schiano for the duration of the season and then pull the trigger on letting him go. Should the team begin a behind-the-scenes coaching search immediately? Yes, without a doubt. But until the season is over—Bill Cowher isn’t leaving CBS midseason; neither would Jon Gruden leave ESPN in the middle of a campaign. Not that either is a realistic option for Tampa Bay—no real coaching candidate is going to be a possibility.
But it sure would be nice to have Tampa Bay’s new head coach lined up and hired just as soon as humanly possible to get ready for the 2014 season. Don’t misunderstand the likelihood that Schiano won’t be around in 2014, it’s a foregone conclusion. But he’s here for the duration of the 2013 season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.