Former linebacker Bryan Cox was a handful in a lot of ways when he played for five different NFL teams from 1991 through 2002. The three-time Pro Bowler and one-time First-Team All-Pro was a great player for a long time, but he was also known for other things -- like flipping the bird to fans, challenging the entire Cincinnati Bengals sideline to a fight, and a foul on-field mouth that was impressive even by NFL standards.
When he started coaching, Cox tried to put all that stuff behind him, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2011 that he didn't understand why people thought he was "crazy."
"Very quiet," he said of his post-playing demeanor. "I believe that the game is for the players. It's not about the coaches, so I kind of keep my mouth shut."
Well, not always. With 8:27 left in the second quarter of the Bucs' 41-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Cox -- now Tampa Bay's "front seven coach" -- got into a brief physical altercation with Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward. As the Saints were driving downfield following one of Josh Freeman's four interceptions on the day, Cox started berating referee Mike Carey after a penalty. Hayward tried to restrain Cox, Cox shoved Hayward, and Hayward shoved his coach back. Fellow linebacker Jacob Cutrera separated Hayward from Cox, but the two men kept jawing at each other.
It wasn't quite on the level of the Buddy Ryan-Kevin Gilbride or Jeff George-June Jones sideline spats for pure invective, but it didn't look good for a team that seems to be falling apart on all levels.
"I'm not happy about it, but I do know that it's been resolved," Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said after the game. "I think you chalk it up to heat of the moment. Guys are very passionate. Adam is a passionate player. Coach Cox is a passionate coach. I know they're very close. And they're, I think, more of a family spat in a frustrating time than, you know, anything that I'm deeply concerned about. I know they've already smoothed that over. But again, it's not what a football team that I'm the head coach of I want to see. So certainly it's been addressed, and it will be addressed and we'll move forward from it. But it need not happen again."
What else needs not happen again is what happened after the game, when one unnamed Bucs player reportedly asked that Schiano and his staff "go back to college."
This could be glossed over as a heat-of-the-moment incident if the Bucs were on a roll, but they've lost four straight games after a 6-4 start, and Schiano's "my way or the highway" style is obviously wearing thin with some of his own players. The first-year NFL coach, who has asked to come from Rutgers and restore discipline to a team that had lost its own sense of accountability, now has to find a way to right his own particular pirate ship.
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