Fire Greg SchianoDecember 25th, 2013
The case against Greg Schiano has its opening argument rooted in December 2012.
The 6-6 Bucs, alive in the playoff hunt, were home against the struggling 3-9 Eagles led by rookie quarterback Nick Foles.
Leading 21-16 on the heels of consecutive long touchdown drives engineered by Josh Freeman, Schiano and the Bucs got the ball back with 3:55 left in the game. And Schiano played not to lose. Freeman’s previous three passes had been a 28-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 and a 13-yard touchdown pass sandwiched around an incompletion; there also was a key 13-yard scramble on a 3rd-and-9 mixed in. But Schiano took the ball out of Freeman’s hands.
Four runs up the gut and a Bucs holding penalty led to a 3rd-and-8 at the Tampa Bay 38 yard line. Rather than ride his suddenly warm quarterback and Vincent Jackson, who had six catches for 131 yards that day, Schiano opted to run the ball to set up a punt.
He put the game in the hands of one of the worst defensive backfields in NFL history. Game over. The Bucs have never recovered.
Schiano told media after that Eagles game he knew how to get the team out of its funk. He had been there before, he said. The Bucs responded by heading to New Orleans the following Sunday – still mathematically in the playoff chase – and getting creamed 41-0.
The 2013 opener
Fast forward to opening day 2013 at the Meadowlands. The Bucs have the ball trailing 15-14 on the Jets’ 19 yard line with :50 remaining in the game. It was 3rd-and-3, and Josh Freeman’s last pass was a 37-yard connection to Vincent Jackson on a key 3rd-and-10 on the drive.
Doug Martin had struggled that afternoon and was averaging less than three yards per carry (the Jets likely will finish this season as the NFL’s best run defense), but the play call on 3rd-and-3 was a handoff to Martin, who didn’t get the first down, which would have iced the game. After the Jets’ final timeout, the Bucs were forced to kick the go-ahead field goal with 38 seconds remaining.
Again, Schiano played not to lose, and the Jets came back to win.
Leading 14-13 at home against the Saints with 6:56 left in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay had the ball with a chance to potentially put the game away. The Bucs’ drive started from their own 14 yard line.
Josh Freeman connected on 3rd-and-9 from the Bucs’ 15 yard line, a 20-yard strike to Vincent Jackson. Freeman’s next pass? An 18-yard connection to Jackson on 2nd-and-9. Freeman never threw the ball again that day.
Five consecutive Doug Martin runs netted 14 yards and the Bucs were faced with 3rd-and-6 from the Saints’ 32 yard line. The call was handoff Martin for three yards. Rian Lindell missed the ensuing 47-yard field goal, and Drew Brees had 1:06 to set up a winning score. Three consecutive completions followed. The last and biggest was to Marques Colston, who inexplicably wasn’t being covered by Darrelle Revis. That set up an easy 27-yard field goal to win.
Again, Schiano got conservative– and lost.
Don’t blame Freeman
Now those first two losses of 2013 can’t be hung on sleepy, leaky Rip Van Freeman, who moved the ball in crunch time against two strong defenses and his offense left the field with the lead. (Yes, the Saints’ defense is fourth-ranked in the NFL. The Jets are 11th.) Schiano inexplicably played it safe and got burned.
A week later, Freeman was ousted for rookie Mike Glennon because the third-round pick, per Schiano, gave the Bucs “the best chance to win.”
Freeman takes a lot of blame for the Bucs troubles. But how much does he deserve?
Schiano put a quarterback on the field to start the season that he didn’t trust. It was clear Schiano didn’t trust Freeman at the end of 2012. You think Bucs players didn’t know that? You think that wasn’t clear when Glennon got a tremendous amount of training camp reps and preseason snaps? Schiano’s lack of trust hurt his team.
Media mess and distractions
When Freeman was benched after Week 3, Schiano wasn’t prepared for the wild media mess and subsequent distractions that ensued.
On the Monday following the Week 3 loss in New England, Freeman was absolutely the starting QB, Schiano said. On Tuesday night, Freeman did his evening radio show as the starter and talked about how close the Bucs were to clicking. On Wednesday morning, Freeman was benched before the Bucs hit the practice field.
Freeman refused to be a good teammate and intentionally orchestrated chaos in order to get cut. Schiano and the Bucs will tell you they didn’t predict that reaction. But why not?
Schiano has strongly implied that Freeman had long-standing, off-field issues, yet at the same time Freeman was allowed to linger long enough to have a meltdown and infect the Bucs. Did Schiano and his bosses not believe Freeman had a selfish, unpredictable, F-you streak in him? Something doesn’t fit.
Regardless, Freeman was enabled by Schiano to throw the Bucs off course. Cutting a player of Freeman’s stature was a call that surely wasn’t all Schiano’s, but the head coach is ultimately responsible for what affects his team. For a coach who takes pride in being on the details, Schiano wasn’t prepared for the fallout of benching Freeman.
Imagine if Freeman played Game 4 against the Cardinals, then was cut or traded immediately, and Mike Glennon was phased in comfortably during the bye week. The Bucs could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering and distractions.
The Bucs had far too much healthy talent on the roster to go 0-8. There’s no way to justify it.
With the offense under Mike Glennon actually moving the ball during games 5-8, the Bucs defense allowed an average of 30 points per game. The Eagles (in Tampa) ran the ball 11 consecutive times up the gut of the Bucs’ defense – 11 in a row! — to set up the game-icing field goal with 2:34 on the clock. Without Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Falcons’ Harry Douglas abused the Bucs defense in Atlanta. The Panthers roughed them up in Tampa on that ugly night in October. A 21-point lead in Seattle wasn’t enough.
Greg Schiano and his staff have been successful developing players, but what about evaluating talent? The two go hand in hand but they are different.
Joe can’t believe in the possibility that Schiano wanted Michael Bennett to return but Team Glazer and rockstar general manager Mark Dominik refused to pay Bennett. That wouldn’t make any sense.
Somehow, Schiano studied film of his stable of returning defensive ends, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn, and determined that Bennett, his leading run-stuffer and sackmaster of 2012, was expendable because Bowers was a stud-in-waiting. This year, 28-year-old Bennett has 7.5 sacks with Seattle in a part-time role. Clayborn, Bowers and Te’o have seven combined.
Schiano played a big role in the messes at defensive end and quarterback. Throw in evaluations at left guard and center, too. Somebody, after watching 2012 film, and the 2013 preseason, determined that Ted Larsen was a capable backup at those positions. He wasn’t.
Evaluating Schiano must factor in how he stacks up against his peers. Match up Schiano versus his NFC South brethren, and that data looks ugly.
After Raheem Morris’ second season, he was a Coach of the Year candidate with the “yungry, race-to-10″ Bucs. Those 2010 Bucs (10-6) were the first team in modern NFL history to start 10 rookies and have a winning record. Has Schiano improved after two seasons?
Joe can’t say with any certainty that Schiano is on the rise. If the Bucs find a way to beat the Saints on Sunday, then, yes, Tampa Bay will have a 5-3 record in the second half of this season, and that would make it clear that Schiano is on the right path.
But as of right now, Schiano doesn’t inspire confidence. Losing three straight to close the season would make things measurably worse.
A championship head coach?
There’s absolutely only one reason to stick with an NFL head coach: because you believe he can craft a winner and lead a team to the Super Bowl.
Greg Schiano’s 32-game body work doesn’t suggest that at all. The signs are not there. Sure, there are some positive elements in place. Schiano is not all bad, but there’s just not enough evidence or hope.
What compounds the situation is the fact that the Bucs, with the NFL’s worst offense (and sinking), appear forced to replace offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and very likely their starting quarterback. Those are massive, franchise-impacting changes that shouldn’t be granted to the leader of the New Schiano Order.
Fire Greg Schiano.