Greg Schiano is rapidly saving his job by doing the one thing he struggled to do for most of this season: win. The Bucs have won four of the last five games and played reasonably well in five of the last six games, although a blowout loss to the Panthers hurt. At 4-9, though, Schiano isn't that far removed from earning a renewed stay, but he's not there, yet.
For one thing, the next three games will be rather difficult: 49ers, @Rams, @Saints. Will one win and a 5-11 record really be enough to earn a return in 2014? I don't think it will, although I can't read the Glazers' minds, of course. Many of the issues that plagued the Bucs at the start of this season are still in place and unlikely to change under Schiano, but the improvement over the past six games has been real and noticeable, especially on defense.
Some of the defenses of Greg Schiano seem to me to be little more than opportunistic cherry-picking, though. Yes, the draft has been pretty good since he took over -- but that's a small sample, and we have no way of knowing that he was actually the reason for that improvement. And if you praise him for his drafts, what about Eric Wright, Kevin Ogletree, the lack of a tight end and pass rusher?
We don't know for which of these decisions he's responsible and for which he isn't, but in general personnel decisions are made by personnel executives, not head coaches. That may be different with the Bucs, but we have no way of knowing -- and hence no way of distributing blame and praise for various personnel moves.
We can say a few other things, though. We can say that the play over the first eight weeks of the season was sub-par, that conservative decisions hurt the Bucs' chances of winning games, that the coaching schemes on offense and defense heavily contributed to losses, that it took players talking to coaches to implement simple changes that should have been obvious.
The team has at least shown improvement over the past six games. Massive improvement, in fact. The defense recovered from its midseason dip and has played better and better, even though some of the old issues remain. The offense has found a way to be reasonably productive in most games, although it's still far from good. Mike Glennon remains shrouded by more question marks than the Riddler, but he has at least outperformed his draft status so far.
The improvement is real, and that should give us some hope that if Greg Schiano were to stay he probably won't be a disaster going forward. So has he saved his job? Truthfully, I can't answer that question. No one but the Glazers can really answer that question. But if it were up to me, 4-12 would not be enough to retain a coach. Four wins (largely against weak teams) is not good enough.
That's why the last three games are still crucial for Schiano. He likely won't survive three more blowout losses, or maybe even one more. He likely won't survive a winless end to the season, even if those wins were competitive. He's almost certain to survive if the Bucs win the final three games.