It's beyond ugly now.
The winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a nationally televised chance to make a statement on behalf of their embattled head coach on Thursday night, and they certainly did.
The game felt over after a single drive, as the Carolina Panthers motored down the field on their first possession and scored as if they were in practice. The final score was 31-13, but 7-0 felt like a blowout against a team that has lost its way on defense and never had a way on offense.
Greg Schiano made his NFL debut against the Panthers last season and his team displayed the fight and tenacity the former Rutgers coach promised to bring. The Bucs hit quarterback Cam Newton with abandon and announced the beginning of a new era of discipline and edge.
On Thursday night, in a zombie-like performance against the same team on the very same field, the Bucs showed almost none of the urgency that was supposed to be Schiano's trademark. There were missed tackles, missed assignments and, above all, a missing spark. Warren Sapp, a legend in Tampa, a new Hall of Famer, and now an NFL Network analyst, called the game "hard to watch" and "embarrassing."
It's been embarrassing for a while. Schiano has mishandled just about everything this season, beginning with the tone-deaf way he addressed the seriousness of a MRSA outbreak, escalating with the cold manner in which he cut ties with quarterback Josh Freeman, and culminating with his cringe-worthy comments about fans who need to hang in there when he's given them little reason to do so. There's debate over whether Schiano has lost his team, but there's no need for debate about whether he's lost his direction. The Bucs don't play like a Schiano team, and it's getting hard to remember what a Schiano team is supposed to play like.
Schiano was brought in to replace Raheem Morris, who was considered a failure as a head coach. In his first 23 games, Morris was 8-15 in Tampa. Schiano is now 7-16.
More damning still, the Bucs' home losing streak of seven is the longest the franchise has had since the 1976-77 stretch of losing that is one of the saddest strings of play in NFL history. Since an overtime victory last season at Carolina on Nov. 18, these Bucs have had only one other victory.
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Fans have long had enough. There's now a "Fire Schiano" billboard in Tampa – a city that isn't usually given over to sports ire. Fans screamed invective at the head coach as he walked off the field two weeks ago after a loss to Philadelphia. Thursday night they were upset before kickoff.
Schiano himself seemed despondent after the loss, admitting "critical mistakes" and a loss of the discipline that he hangs his entire reputation on.
"Those are things you get paid to do as a coach," he said quietly, "is to get your players to perform. That falls on me."
His solution is the same solution he's had to everything in his career and his life.
"My whole career, you work as hard and smart as you can," he said.
And that's just it: the Bucs are working hard, but they're no longer working smart. Darrelle Revis, the big-name free agent who was supposed to put the Bucs into playoff contention, looks like just another guy in pewter. Mike Williams, the receiver who was signed to a huge contract right before the season, looks like just another guy running routes. A team of eight Pro Bowlers has the same number of wins as the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bucs aren't well-coached anymore. The franchise could have probably succeeded over the long run with a leader who makes occasional missteps during media conferences, but it can't sustain a leader who doesn't seem to know what to do during games.
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The Bucs season is beyond ugly now.
It's beyond repair.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Greg Schiano
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers