COMMENTARY | It's hard to imagine a worse start to the 2013 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to Pro Football Reference's Team Game Finder, the Bucs and the 2008 San Diego Chargers are the only teams since the turn of the century to hold leads in the final 30 seconds and still lose their first two games.
The heartbreaking start has stirred up discussion amongst fans who are now clamoring for change. In general, when a team loses, the blame usually falls on two individuals: the quarterback and the coach.
Who is the weakest link: Inconsistent quarterback Josh Freeman, or embattled coach Greg Schiano?
The case against Freeman -- Physically, he's a freak. He's 6-foot-6, weighs 240 pounds, yet has uncanny speed for a big man. He's Tampa Bay's all-time leader in single-season and career passing touchdowns, and is three years removed from posting a ridiculous 25:6 touchdown-to- interception ratio -- joining Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as the only players in NFL history to throw at least 25 touchdowns and six or fewer interceptions in a season.
What's not to like? Well, a lot, actually. He's uncomfortable in the pocket, displays poor mechanics, and tends to stare down his receivers. Additionally, he shows bad judgment reading opposing coverage, is turnover-prone when faced with any kind of pressure, and his accuracy is dropping at an alarming rate. Through two games, he's completed 45 percent of his passes, while averaging a pedestrian 167 passing yards.
The on-the-field stuff -- honestly, that's not the main issue. That can be fixed with time and coaching. What's occurring off the field is where the problem lies.
It started in June when it was reported that Freeman was late to his own football camp because of "car troubles." Then a story leaked about him oversleeping and missing the team photo. Car problems and oversleeping an alarm are minor issues. Freeman's teammates choosing not to vote him as a team captain -- that shows a lack of leadership, and that's embarrassing. Has a four-year incumbent captain ever not retained the title for a fifth season?
Recently, rumors surfaced about Freeman wanting a trade out of Tampa Bay. Though he denied the report, the story comes out at an awful time. The Bucs chose not to extend Freeman's contract in the offseason and instead spent a third round pick on NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. If Freeman continues his struggles on and off the field, Tampa Bay won't hesitate to give its rookie signal-caller a shot to lead this offense. Freeman's teammates have conveyed they've lost faith by not voting him a team captain. Has the coaching staff lost faith too?
The case against Schiano -- He's preached the importance of discipline since arriving in Tampa Bay last season. Yet, it's discipline that has been absent from the 0-2 Buccaneers as they prepare to face the New England Patriots Sunday.
They've committed 23 penalties, tied for the most in the NFL. Many of these infractions are fundamental issues. They fall on the coach. Three delay of games, four false starts, two illegal formations, and four unsportsmanlike penalties have killed this team. However, penalties are just part of the problem; the underlying cause is with Schiano and his coaching methods.
This isn't college anymore, coach. You aren't the head of this organization -- just a part of it. The domineering, hard-nosed style of coaching that worked with 18-to-22 year old college athletes isn't going to fly with grown men -- professionals.
Some examples of unorthodox rules include: practice doesn't begin until all players have their toes on the line. The thermostat is set at a certain temperature throughout the complex to ensure the players remain alert. Warm-up drills must be completed in perfectly straight lines or else everyone has to do it again. There is no laughing, no joking around, all serious, all the time.
This dictatorship that he's running in Tampa Bay isn't working. Players are starting to rebel. Former Bucs tight end and current New York Jets player Kellen Winslow was very critical of Schiano, describing his coaching style as "militaristic". Bucs defensive back Darrelle Revis also voiced his opinion about Schiano being too strict. And then there's this.
Furthermore, as I mentioned above, quarterback Josh Freeman was not voted a team captain for the first time since his rookie year. It's no secret that there is dissention between the player and coach. There is a lack of trust on both sides. So much so that a report surfaced about Schiano 'rigging' the captaincy vote so that Freeman didn't win on purpose. If that's true, it cripples what's already a bad situation. If false, it still adds fuel to the fire. There is something wrong with this team. Is it the coaches' fault, or the players'?
This really wouldn't be news if the team was winning games. People tend to forget little distractions when the team is winning and making the playoffs. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick have proven that coaches don't have to be liked, can have strict rules, and still succeed in the NFL. Players ultimately make the difference. The coach has the responsibility of motivating players, and making them buy into his system.
No one is buying into Schiano. He's lost seven of his last eight games dating back to last season, and that trend looks to continue this week as Tampa Bay travels to face the Patriots. If the Buccaneers continue down this path, change(s) will be made.
James LoPresti lives in Tampa and has more than eight years experience working in the news industry. He has been published in the Tampa Tribune, and currently writes fantasy football analysis for The Draft Report. Follow him on Twitter @JLoPresti3114.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Josh Freeman
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Greg Schiano