When a team is talented but losing, the one thing that can save a coach is his players' effort. If he can point to them and earnestly say that they're still playing hard for him, perhaps the coach can save his hide by scapegoating an assistant. When the effort goes, though, the coach is doomed. It seems the Bucs are heading that way quickly.
"I don't make this statement lightly," Greg Cosell said on the Fantasy Guru podcast. "But I thought there were times last week when that Bucs defense did not play with, shall we say, a whole lot urgency. You know me, I don't say that. Because I'm not a believer in that, because you have to know what's in a guy's head. But I thought the film at times showed that."
This five-game losing streak is starting to feel more and more like the team's 0-10 stretch at the end of Raheem Morris' tenure. The fact that their only win of the past eleven games came against the Atlanta Falcons in what was effectively a meaningless game for their opponents doesn't help, either.
Greg Bedard gave his own view in his weekly column for The MMQB.
On the Eagles' final drive of the game, linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster showed little interest getting off blocks or pursuing plays away from him. On his final play with 4:29 left, Foster gave his best effort on the drive and appeared to get fallen on. He left with a right leg injury and didn't return. He didn't appear on the injury report this week. If this is really happening, it's a bad sign for Schiano. And it's a shame for a player like David, who has played very well for the most part this season.
I can see their point when I watch the film, and that's a real problem. The Bucs defense looked a little sluggish throughout the game, and that final drive was an embarrassment. Maybe that was just a consequence of the Eagles' up-tempo attack or maybe the players were dispirited because they couldn't stop the Eagles' unbalanced line (for which Stephen White blames Bill Sheridan). Even so, when people can legitimately question your effort, you have issues.
Stephen White vehemently disagrees with people questioning the players' effort, though. "I respect Bedard a lot but I think he is looking for a reason the defense struggled other than the one staring him in the face. People try this "they quit" or "stopped showing effort" stuff way too much. I watched that drive several times. There's a difference between Foster being confused and showing effort. Now yeah maaaaybe he didn't go 1000 miles an hour if he blitzed from the right and they ran to the left. Big whoop. He was doing the same thing earlier in the game. He also managed to almost make it to one of those types of plays on that drive before he got hurt. Hell, Lavonte David was literally crawling trying to get to plays on that drive. So I'm not trying to hear that poor effort BS. Poor coaching? Hell yes."
Unless the coaches can rein this in quickly, this will very likely be the final nail in Greg Schiano's coffin. A win against the Falcons tomorrow would come in handy.
Updated: added Stephen White's take.