Could Greg Schiano return in 2014? Pewter Report in their weekly must-read SR's Fab 5 column reports that the Buccaneers owners don't want to fire Greg Schiano, and that he certainly has a good chance of returning to the team in 2014. Pewter Report is always plugged in, and they note that the Glazers believe that Schiano doesn't necessarily deserve to be fired for a slew of reasons.
With Roy Cumming suggesting that Schiano has a 20-30% chance of returning this year, this is starting to become a troubling theme. Are we really starting the press campaign to keep a head coach who has yet to win a game in 2013? Is this the result of the team or owners starting to talk to local media and suggesting some reasons for Schiano to stay?
Well, bullocks to that. I'm going to go through every one of Pewter Report's headline reasons why Greg Schiano could return and why the Glazers don't want to fire him. And I'm going to tear down each of those reasons. It's always fun to rant like this.
The Crazy Circumstances
There's no doubt that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had some unfortunate off-field issues. The truth is that aside from the contracting of MRSA, all of these off-field issues could have been avoided quite easily.
The most obvious issue was a ten-month long quarterback controversy that was created by Greg Schiano himself. It started when he suggested Josh Freeman needed competition, continued when they pursued several other quarterbacks and drafted Mike Glennon, and finally culminated in one ugly split. The Bucs could have handled basically everything there with more grace. They could have cut ties earlier, they could have come out and said "this is a competition" instead of waffling about with "Josh Freeman is our quarterback".
When MRSA struck, the Bucs could have just placed Lawrence Tynes on injured reserve. A move that would not have cost them much, but would have avoided a lot of negative press. They also could have handled that with a lot more transparency, something they didn't do until the second round of MRSA infections hit.
A lot of the other reports surrounding the team, player leaks and negative comments from ex-players are also Greg Schiano's responsibility. He created what has repeatedly been described as an "atmosphere of fear", doesn't practice a lot of transparency to explain any of the issues fans and media have had with his team, whether it be on or off the field.
As for injuries -- the Bucs have had a few, but every team deals with them. They've only lost one starter for the season so far (not counting Connor Barth), although obviously Carl Nicks' extended absence is an issue as well. But that's two starters. That's not supposed to turn a supposed playoff contender into a winless team, and it's something every team deals with.
More importantly, though, you don't get to whine about crazy circumstances when you're responsible for creating them in the first place.
The Challenging Bucs' 2013 Schedule
Oh yeah, the Bucs have had a tough schedule. That is undoubtedly true. But honestly, I don't care how tough your schedule is: that's no excuse for losing eight of eight games -- and it doesn't exactly explain the six consecutive losses last year, either. Not to mention that common thread throughout those games has been being outcoached rather than a lack of talent.
You know who else had a really tough schedule in 2011? Raheem Morris. Football Outsiders saw it as the second-toughest schedule in the NFL, and Bill Barnwell made the argument that a mid-season six-game stretch was the toughest stretch any team had ever faced. It wasn't (and shouldn't have been) an excuse for Morris, and it shouldn't be an excuse for Schiano, either. You can use schedule to excuse underperformance -- but only up to a certain point.
This is the NFL, and you're supposed to win games no matter the opponent. Remember what the goal was when Greg Schiano was appointed head coach? It was to win multiple Super Bowls. Championships. "Oh no the games were tough" isn't exactly a valid excuse when that's your goal, especially not when the team's spending has matched those ambitions.
The Sudden Quarterback Switch
In what way was Greg Schiano not responsible for this quarterback switch? He started the whole controversy by suggesting a need for competition, then continued to waffle between "Freeman's our starter" and "Yay competition" throughout the offseason, gave Mike Glennon a lot of snaps throughout the preseason, and then pulled the plug after three games. After, incidentally, Freeman's least awful performance of the season.
Hell, let's take this a little further. Josh Freeman was in place when Greg Schiano took the job. He picked this quarterback when he took this job. The quarterback didn't live up to his promise, but we're supposed to take that as somehow beyond Schiano's control? Like he didn't have any input on who would start? On who was going to be his quarterback for this season?
Pewter Report suggests that the Bucs gave Freeman plenty of opportunities to improve, and he didn't, and instead became a problem during the offseason. That could very well be true -- but again the finger points back to Schiano. Either Schiano was wrong in his evaluation of Freeman, or he created an environment in which Freeman wasn't comfortable.
And here's another thing: Freeman's problems have consistently been mechanical, especially his footwork, and yet the Bucs have not brought in quarterbacks coaches who actually tried to fix mechanics. Instead it's always been about reading the field and seeing everything clearly. I'm not going to suggest that's not important, but when the biggest issue is that your quarterback is just missing guys, maybe your coaches should have focused on that a little more.
That doesn't change the fact that Josh Freeman wasn't playing up to expectations. The switch itself was probably needed. But you don't get to point to a quarterback you picked and then a quarterback controversy you created and a subsequent switch to a quarterback you also picked and then say "hey buddy, it's not my fault."
The Glazers Believe Schiano -- And Still Believe In Him
Good for them. They're in the vast, vast minority here. The last time we did a poll, 94% believed Schiano should be fired. The Glazers make the decisions here, but that's a pretty strong fan sentiment to just ignore.
The Bucs Are Still Playing Hard
This is undeniably true. Greg Schiano doesn't appear to have lost the locker room, although blowout losses to the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles were concerning. We'll see whether the blip against Seattle is more like the close loss to the Green Bay Packers in 2011 (followed by 0 wins that season), or a true turnaround like we saw in Tony Dungy's second season in Tampa. My money's on the former, but Schiano's going to get the chance to prove me wrong.
But the issues with this team go beyond the team still believing in him. Dysfunctional schemes that have been exposed the past few weeks, especially on defense, are a massive problem. Schiano's fundamentally conservative approach to football and in-game coaching has cost the Bucs several games this season. Damaging reports keep coming out, and the team has been a disaster off the field.
Oh, and did I mention the Bucs are winless?
But sure, the players are still playing hard. Whoop-ti-doo.
Drafts Have Been Great With Schiano
Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, although I would say the drafts have been above-average. Or at least: the 2012 draft has been very good, with Mark Barron, Lavonte David and Doug Martin looking like slamdunks early in their careers. Of course, no one else in that draft has done anything. 2013 is a lot less clear, though.
Johnthan Banks has struggled, but that's what rookie cornerbacks do. That doesn't mean he's a bust, but we can't label him a success, either. Mike Glennon has looked decent for a third-round rookie quarterback, but he has plenty of issues, too. Akeem Spence has looked great, as has Mike James in limited time -- but William Gholston and Steven Means remain projects whose long-term impact remains to be seen.
And here's another question: how much of this was Schiano's doing and how much of it was Dominik's? And if it was Schiano's doing, should we blame him for letting Michael Bennett walk and signing Eric Wright, Kevin Ogletree, and a slew of mediocre free agents the past two years? Should we really be cherry-picking the positives rather than evaluating the whole record?
Plus, the point of drafting well is to win games. Whoops?
Firing Some Assistant Coaches Might Help
It might help, but that's fighting symptoms rather than the root cause. This team runs the schemes that its head coach wants to run, especially on defense. And those schemes, I might add, have been consistently dysfunctional. Not just this year, but last year, too -- although there was a period last year when the offense did really click. Still, Schiano has his hand in everything. He's a notorious micromanager, and the team plays the way he wants to play. Do you really think you'll see fundamental changes by firing the assistants when you have that kind of head coach?
Let's take another approach: Greg Schiano was the man who hired these coaches in the first place. Every coach on this staff is his guy. That makes him responsible for failed hirings. Why then should we have confidence that letting him hire some other coaches is going to create better results? He's going to hire coaches that run the schemes he likes, and he's already running the schemes he likes.
Schiano's Salary Is Hefty
Oh yeah? Well, tough. I can't really bring myself to care that multi-billionaires are going to have to cough up a few million because they made a poor decision, and then allowed that poor decision to hire the largest coaching staff in the NFL.
It's also a silly sunk-cost fallacy. You shouldn't be concerned with how much you're going to pay Greg Schiano, because you have to pay him that regardless of whether or not you fire him. You should be a lot more concerned with what you can do to maximize the team's revenue (hint: keeping Greg Schiano isn't on that list) from a business perspective, and with what you can to do to maximize the team's chance to win games from a sports perspective.
I can't stop the Glazers from making business decisions. That's their right. It's their team. But keeping Schiano because he has $9 million in remaining salary when your player payroll over that same three-year period is going to be about $360 million (if not more) borders on insanity.
A miracle has to happen for Greg Schiano to keep his job
Ultimately, this comes down to winning games. It's something Greg Schiano has not done in the NFL so far, and that will end his NFL tenure unless something changes very, very quickly. If the Glazers are really going to point to weak excuses to keep a coach who won two games, they can expect a lot of fan backlash. They can look forward to a season of Greg Schiano-bashing by fans, and by the national media -- because that's certainly been a theme throughout his tenure, too.
You can't tell your fans that the head coach you trust won two games while turning the Bucs into a national laughing stock. Wins cure everything, but they're also the only thing that can cure the fans' feelings for Greg Schiano. And those wins had better start rolling out in a high volume and very, very quickly if Schiano is to keep his job.
Even then, this is starting to get a little ridiculous. At best, Greg Schiano will finish this season with an 8-8 record. More realistically, a positive scenario would be a 4-12 record. And that would be a positive outcome for the Bucs! 4-12! What happened to the guys who fired Jon Gruden after a 9-7 season and Tony Dungy after reaching the playoffs for three straight years? When did "oh just win a handful of games" become the standard in Tampa?