After Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now 0-5. Sadly, that is not the biggest problem currently facing the struggling Bucs this season. Distracting the Bucs from correcting their game play are rumors that their coach, Greg Schiano, may be the core of what’s wrong in the Tampa Bay. Schiano was hired last season from Rutgers University, his only experience as a head coach.
In his 11 years with the Red Knights, they was ranked in the Top 25 only once and never won the Big East. Granted, Rutgers’ football program is not as well-funded as some, and their facilities are not as top-notch, but Schiano’s influence was mediocre at best. Turning the team around may have inspired more funds, and facility upgrades, so one is not necessarily dependent on the other.
In the Bucs, Schiano has a pool of talent that seems to be leaking. The team consisted of No.1 draft pick quarterback Josh Freeman, wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy veterans Darrelle Davis and Dashon Goldson; last year’s first round pick Mike Barron, and this year’s second round pick Johnthan Banks. Schiano is not losing because his team lacks skill, experience and ability.
So why, then, has Tampa’s ninth coach been unable to mold this team into a winning franchise? Schiano won his first six games with the Bucs, then proceeded to lose the next five before a meaningless win against the Atlanta Falcons to end the season 7-9. It is obvious that Schiano’s approach to professional football is not working in Tampa Bay, and something has to give.
The Bucs are on a long losing streak, and three of those were without their starting quarterback. Freeman was benched in Week 3 and cut in week 4. Within days he signed with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Bucs were left to depend on rookie Mike Glennon. Glennon is not a ”bad” quarterback, but his limited experience is not what the Bucs need to regain their footing and get back in sync.
Over the weekend, USAToday.com reported the NFL Players Association is calling for an investigation into the possibility that Schiano is the source of a media leak about Freeman’s confidential involvement in the NFL’s substance abuse program. Schiano denies being the leak, but Yahoo! Sports reports the NFLPA has information showing Schiano discussed Freeman’s status with other Bucs players, which in turn may have led to the information being picked up by the media.
NFLPA cites nine previous cases of confidentiality breach wherein the league investigated but did not follow through on threatened “substantial” disciplinary action that never happened. The union is calling for an “unprecedented” joint investigation, referencing the previous inquiries by the league that have yet to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
For his part, Freeman reportedly takes medication for ADHD, but took a different one last year, which kicked of a positive result. Freeman submitted to ongoing testing, and passed over 40 subsequent drug tests.
Aside from the coaching issues, the Bucs are also dealing with a mysterious MRSA infection. Three players have now tested positive for the antibiotic resistant staph infection, and no one is sure just where or how they came across it. Health officials and team doctors have scoured the facilities and checked and rechecked the infected players, but no clues to the origin of the infection have been reported.
This distraction alone would be enough to put any team off kilter, but combine it with coaching failures, holes in game play, lack of discipline, and controversy and the Bucs have little hope of turning around their season.
Options must be considered and one of those options should be to cut Schiano loose. He has not lived up to expectation and seems to have dragged the team down to the point where the only thing they can count on is complications and losing games. Schiano needs to adjust his coaching style, trust his offensive and defensive coordinators and treat his players like the grown men they are.
These are not children fresh from home seeking his approval as a substitute father figure. Many of the Bucs are mature men of some experience but Schiano does not appear to have the capacity for dealing with them as equals.
One has to wonder with the Freeman issue why no players in the Bucs’ camp came forward to defend Schiano, as has been the case in New York, where Giants’ players are standing by coach Tom Coughlin during their winless season. What New York has that Tampa is lacking is a coach they trust, that they respect, and that respects and trusts them both on and off the field.
Schiano needs to take notes on how other NFL coaches in adverse situations are dealing with their teams and the media. He needs to study how they present themselves and their teams and implement a different approach. If he cannot capture the regard and commitment of his team, Schiano’s days in Tampa Bay, and NFL coaching, are numbered.
Commentary by: Brandi Tasby