The 5 Defining Moments of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2013 Season
After a long and painful season, the Greg Schiano era is over in Tampa Bay.
The Glazer family fired both the Buccaneers head coach and general manager Mark Dominik on Monday, according to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com. The Bucs finished the season 4-12 after starting the season with an eight-game losing streak.
A statement by co-chairman Bryan Glazer expressed disappointment in the results from investments they made in the team during Schiano's tenure: "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."
For all the negative media attention the Bucs received thanks to Schiano, he was fired because of the product he put on the field. Despite having Pro Bowl players like Gerald McCoy, Darrelle Revis and Vincent Jackson, they never looked better than a second-tier team.
According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Bucs are already connected with potential head coaches like Lovie Smith. The Glazers will likely seek out a head coach and GM with NFL experience to turn around a team that does have significant talent on the roster.
Schiano's firing should not come as any surprise. As the season unfolded, several events both on and off the field spelled doom for the Bucs' season and the jobs of Schiano and Dominik. Here are the five defining moments of the Tampa Bay 2013 season.
Lavonte David Flagged for a Late Hit to Give the Jets a Game-Winning Field Goal
It was the play that started the Bucs down their eight-game losing streak at the start of the season. Linebacker Lavonte David's late hit on Jets quarterback Geno Smith not only gave the game to New York, it also represented the utter lack of discipline the Bucs would play with over the course of the season.
With only 38 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter, Bucs kicker Rian Lindell kicked a 37-yard field goal to give Tampa Bay the game 17-15. The Jets would be forced to drive almost 50 yards to attempt a field goal.
On the second play of the drive, Smith scrambled 10 yards with David in pursuit. Smith stepped out of bounds, but David shoved the Jets QB to the ground. Flags were immediately thrown, and 15 yards were added to the end of the run.
The penalty put the Jets in field-goal range. On the next play, Jets kicker Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal to win the game.
Since the Jets game, David became one of the best linebackers in the NFL, but his boneheaded play will likely haunt him for years to come. The penalty was also the most egregious example of the lack of discipline demonstrated by the Buccaneers this season.
Greg Schiano was hired in part to instill discipline into a ragtag Bucs team. Yet, his team ranked third this year in penalties with 121 total. The lack of discipline is an indictment of Schiano's coaching and put into doubt his ability to turn the ship around.
The Buccaneers Release Josh Freeman
Was there a messier series of events in the NFL this year than the Josh Freeman saga? It is difficult to fathom a more bizarre or unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the benching and eventual release of the Buccaneers' former franchise quarterback.
From the captain's vote to the missed team photo to the leak of Freeman's failed drug test, the first half of the season was marred by the issues surrounding Freeman. Freeman's poor play in the first three games of the season became background noise to the drama unfolding in the media.
After Week 3, Schiano benched Freeman in favor of Mike Glennon. A week later, Freeman was released. He would later sign with the Minnesota Vikings. He started only one awful game for them and has not played since.
Even now, many details of the Freeman saga remain a mystery. Who leaked the news of Freeman's failed test? Did Schiano set Freeman up for failure? Did Freeman sabotage the Buccaneers to secure a trade or release?
The issues between Freeman and Schiano and the Bucs' management no doubt created a massive distraction in the locker room. They also interfered with the development of any cohesion or chemistry in the Bucs offense.
With Freeman gone, the Buccaneers are without a franchise quarterback once again. With Schiano and Dominik gone, it looks likely that the next regime will draft a potential franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.
MRSA Infects the Locker Room
When a dangerous bacteria spreads through an NFL roster, on-field performance takes a back seat to the health of the players. MRSA arrived at One Buc Place in 2013 in a big way, ripping through the locker room and taking down a few players along the way.
The infection was first uncovered during the preseason with kicker Lawrence Tynes and guard Carl Nicks as the players first infected. Tynes was quickly designated on the Non-Football Injury list, a move which angered him and led to him filing a grievance against the Bucs.
Nicks appeared to be more fortunate with a less virulent infection in his foot. Unfortunately, he suffered a recurrence of the infection in October that forced him to undergo surgery to remove it. He hasn't played since the surgery after playing in only two games this season.
It was later revealed that cornerback Johnthan Banks was also infected. Though the Buccaneers were able to avoid a wider outbreak of the deadly strain of staph, it definitely affected the Bucs locker room and opposing teams alike.
Teams cleaned their locker rooms after games with the Bucs, and there were rumors that games could be canceled due to danger the bacteria posed. Bucs management brought in specialists to explain and clarify the MRSA infection to their players.
It's hard to imagine a scarier work situation than having to contend with a deadly bacteria that has the potential to end careers. While the MRSA infection kept Nicks from helping the Bucs anemic run game, it infected the entire team psychologically.
The Buccaneers' First Win Comes in Week 10.
Few coaches survive an 0-8 start. Greg Schiano is not one of them.
Dropping eight straight games ensured the Bucs' 2013 season was lost just halfway through. Some of the games were down-to-the-wire heartbreakers. Others were painful blowouts.
It wasn't until Week 10 that the Bucs emerged victorious against the Miami Dolphins. The Bucs didn't play a perfect game, but for the first time this season they were able to make more plays than their opponent and actually played all 60 minutes.
The Bucs caught the Dolphin reeling from their own off-field drama. Tackle Jonathan Martin had just left the team, and the details surrounding his departure led to the suspension of guard Ritchie Incognito.
Losing two of their offensive linemen clearly had an effect on the Miami offense as they managed only two rush yards. QB Ryan Tannehill carried the offense but could not make enough plays against a strong defensive effort by the Bucs.
The Bucs offense leaned heavily on its run game. Running back Mike James went down early with an ankle injury, forcing backups Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey into action. Leonard received most of the carries but it was Rainey who enjoyed a breakout game, running for 45 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Though the Bucs would only win three more games, their win in Miami pulled the winless monkey of their backs. It was a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak season.
The Bucs Get Blown out by the Saints in the Season Finale
Unlike the Bucs, the Saints had a playoff berth on the line. Saints QB Drew Brees (24-31, 381 yards, 4 TDs) put on a passing clinic against a Bucs secondary that looked lost and unmotivated.
Mike Glennon and the Bucs offense played a bit better than the Tampa defense, but it became apparent that they were simply not in the same class as the Saints offense.
The blowout was a sad but fitting finale for the Bucs' 2013 season. Greg Schiano was outcoached in nearly every game, but possibly none more so than against Saints HC Sean Payton in the finale. With Schiano out of the picture, the Glazer family will have to take these kinds of games to heart when hiring the Buccaneers' next head coach.