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Back to Football: Final Twelve Games Still Have Meaning for the Bucs

After a trying bye week, the Buccaneers face an uncertain future.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So the drama is over and Josh Freeman is a Viking. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly shoulder a lot of the blame for the comedy of errors that led to Freeman's release, it can be said that Freeman wasn't some innocent victim in all this.

Coach Schiano has apparently always been a big meanie. That didn't seem to bother Josh when he was quarterbacking one of the more prolific offenses in the league for about half a season last year. No, Coach S' penchant to yell and demand more of his quarterback wasn't the root cause for Freeman throwing worm burners to wide open receivers or have the inability to hit a check down in the flat or stare down his receivers (in year 5) or have no clue what to do when the communication system goes out (in year 5) or not read a defense (in year 5). That's on former number five.

And this whole nonsense that the coach and QB has to play patty-cake and be chums has to stop, too. Gruden never had a quarterback he liked (or liked him). Ask Phil Simms if Bill Parcells had a friendly atmosphere.

Hard ass coaches have and can still work in this league.

You have to win...and that's where Schiano has failed. However, at least on the outside looking in, it doesn't appear that Schiano has lost the players. There's plenty not too happy with him: not agreeing to how they are being used, the Freeman situation, the MRSA nonsense and how they've lost games but they still play hard for him.

The Glazers may be embarrassed by the last few weeks but I don't believe Schiano has lost the faith of the Ownership yet. The next twelve games will decide that.

If the Buccaneers finish strong, say 8-4 in that stretch with Glennon showing some promise and the defense continuing to improve, it may buy Schiano another season.

It would also give the Bucs 12 games to decide if Glennon can be a starting quarterback in the NFL or if they have to address it in the draft.

Interestingly, the Bucs torrid offensive pace in 2012 started after their week 5 bye week. The coaching staff had a chance to analyze what teams were doing against them and adjust accordingly. Tampa Bay's offense responded by averaging 31 points a game over their next 8 games, going 5-3 in that run. From the bye week on, Tampa Bay was held under 21 pts just twice in their last twelve.

Of course, the competition certainly helped as the Bucs beat up on some weak sisters. Looking at Tampa Bay's schedule though, it kind of lines up for the repeat performance.

After facing four teams with winning records and a combined record of 15-5 (.750 winning percentage), the Bucs schedule loosens up a little over the next three weeks, facing teams with a combined record of 4-10, two of those games at home (.400).

The Bucs will head out to Seattle to face a top notch Seahawks team in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, then come back home for a Monday Night Football game matchup against the Dolphins - a team that has come back to earth a bit after a 3-0 start.

With still four games against fellow NFC South strugglers Atlanta and Carolina, plus other losing teams like Philly, Buffalo and St. Louis - its not inconceivable that the Bucs can still turn in a decent season despite the 0-4 start.

It wouldn't satisfy an angry fanbase that is currently calling for blood but it may show enough improvement for the Glazers to give Schiano one more season to get the Bucs back to the playoffs.

Of course, if the players decide to quit - then the coach will get the ax and those who sandbagged will likely be shipped out.

While some fans are hoping for a collapse that would allow Tampa Bay to "tank for Teddy" and get a new coach on the scene at One Buc, I personally would like to see the players and coach Schiano start to find some success and re-build the trust that was lost with the Freeman debacle. There's no guarantee the Bucs would lose enough to secure Bridgewater or that Bridgewater will even be decent in the league. However, Tampa Bay doesn't need Teddy Bridgewater in a draft pool that may have the deepest crop of quarterbacks since 2004. If Glennon isn't the guy, maybe Boyd, Manziel, Marietta, Hundley, Mettenberger or Murray is.

Also, don't forget everyone had Geno Smith as a top five pick at this time last year. Where did he end up?

Losing is contagious, but so is winning. The more you establish yourself as a winning program you can sometimes carry that momentum into the next season. Look at Tony Dungy's 1996 Bucs, who started 0-5 and 1-8 but finished winning 5 of their last 7 and set up the Bucs' first trip to the playoffs in over a decade the following season.

Schiano's sophomore season has so far been a disaster but there's still time to right the ship.

It will be fascinating to see if he can add the winning component to his hard ass approach before it's too late.