COMMENTARY | "We're in hell right now gentlemen. Believe me. And we can stay here, get the [crap] kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell…one inch at a time." -- Tony D'Amato from Any Given Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone through a hellish first quarter of the season. And they are desperately trying to crawl their way back and salvage what's left. Quarterback Josh Freeman has been released and is no longer a distraction. But was Freeman the main problem, or was he a piece of it?
After four games -- and four losses -- blame was placed on head coach Greg Schiano. So much so that fans and analysts alike are calling for his firing.
Prepare to be disappointed Tampa Bay fans. Schiano is going to remain the coach -- at least until the end of the season.
History is on his side -- Last year, eight head coaches were fired. None of them were let go mid-season. Since Malcolm Glazer purchased the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, no coach has ever been fired before the end of the year. Not even Raheem Morris, who lost 10 straight games to finish the season in 2011. Don't expect the Glazers to change their tune.
Secondly, firing Schiano in the middle of the season doesn't make any sense for the organization in the short term. The interim coach wouldn't have time to develop any new schemes with the team. He'd need the offseason to implement any real changes. In fact, any interim head coach would still be a part of Schiano's staff, so the play-calling wouldn't change either.
How much difference would really be made, outside of a new man standing in front of a podium for press conferences? If Schiano goes, his coaching staff needs to go too. That's what happened when Morris was let go. Don't just clean a single room; clean the whole house. And the only way that's going to happen is if Tampa Bay waits until the end of the season.
Then again, maybe Schiano can turn this ship around.
There's still time for him to win over the crowd -- In the grand scheme of things, fans shouldn't care how a head coach portrays himself. It shouldn't bother them if he is foul-mouthed, or closed-lipped in front of the media. And it shouldn't matter if some of the players think his tactics are unconventional. What matters is results. Has the team improved since the head coach was hired, and is the team winning?
Have the Buccaneers progressed since Schiano was hired? Absolutely, and you'd be foolish to say otherwise. The 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were atrocious. Coach Raheem Morris lost the locker room after a heartbreaking defeat to the New Orleans Saints Week 6, and the team proceeded to lose every game for the rest of the season. They surrendered the third-most yards in the NFL, and gave up the most rushing yards (2,496) and touchdowns (26) in the league. Those numbers don't explain enough of the story. Tampa Bay's running defense was so putrid, they gave up an average of 5.01 yards-per-carry, the second-highest amount in NFL history among teams that allowed at least 2,400 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns in a season.
Enter defensive-minded Schiano. In his first season, he transformed Tampa Bay's besieged ground defense from worst-to-first. He helped cut the opposing yards-per-attempt from 5.01 to a league-best 3.5. This year, it's more of the same. The Bucs have one of the best rush defenses and are the only team in the league that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
Yes, the Bucs have shown improvement. Is it translating to victories? It did at first, and it will again. Schiano took over a 4-12 team in shambles, turned them into a respectable 7-9 squad, and brought a new attitude into an organization that had lost its swagger.
It's easy to look at Tampa Bay's 0-4 record and say that they're garbage. In truth, they've played well enough to be .500. They are a personal foul penalty and missed field goal away from being 2-2. There are 12 games left. If they can win half the remaining games -- with a rookie quarterback, mind you -- Schiano deserves to keep his job. If not, it's up to the ownership, and for them, the idea of firing the head coach comes down to one thing…
Money -- It's always about the money. And the richer a person is, the more likely they are to be cautious about how their money is being spent. The Glazers recently granted Josh Freeman his outright release, and ate his remaining $6.25 million salary. Speaking of salary, Schiano still has three years remaining on his contract. He signed a five-year, $15 million deal in 2012 and would be owed $9 million if he were to be fired this season.
He won't be though. He will remain the head coach. The Bucs have already gone down this road before with former head coach Jon Gruden, and I doubt ownership has forgotten.
In 2008, Tampa Bay rewarded Gruden with a contract extension through the 2011 season. With the team on pace to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it seemed like a great investment. But after a winless December, Tampa Bay lost out on the playoffs and Gruden lost his job. And because of the early termination, the Glazers lost money. They were forced to pay Gruden for the remaining three years of his contract, an amount roughly $4.5 million per season.
The Glazers don't want to relive that again. They signed Schiano to a five-year deal because they believed in him. At some point or another, fans had faith in the head coach too. Schiano has 12 games left to right the ship and restore order.
And he'll do it. One inch at a time.
James LoPresti lives in Tampa and has a journalism degree from the University of South Florida. He has eight years experience working in print media with the Tampa Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @JLoPresti3114.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Greg Schiano
- Josh Freeman
- Raheem Morris