When a team, in any professional sport, goes on long losing streak, there is always a fear of the coaching staff losing the locker room. Players begin becoming frustrated, fingers begin getting pointed, and at its’ very worst, distrust among the players and coaches starts creeping into the forefront more and more.
It happened to the Buccaneers in 2011 with former head coach Raheem Morris when the Buccaneers essentially stopped playing hard and finished the year losing 10 in a row. Up until now, all has seemed to be intact inside Tampa Bay’s locker room – albeit on somewhat unsteady ground.
On Thursday NFL.com's Micheal Silver wrote a scathing piece blasting Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano. Silver used unnamed sources, even quoting a player who compared Schiano's style to that of "being in Cuba." Former Bucs defensive end, Michael Bennett, now in Seattle via free agency, was also hard on Schiano and his style according to Silver.
Is the Buccaneers locker room getting ready to implode? It depends on whom you talk to and believe.
Schiano for one doesn't foresee the locker room unraveling.
“Have I lost the locker room? No. Are they listening? Yes. Are we getting everything out of them? Well obviously not, because we are 0-7 right? There are different levels to that question.
“Ultimately we have good guys in that locker room. We have 61 guys in that locker room that I believe in, and I really strongly feel they believe in me. Does belief get tested when you have an 0-7 record? Absolutely. I’m sure it gets tested both ways. When someone misses a play … but at the end of the day I know these guys are busting their guts to do it. Why do we make a mistake? I always look first at myself, that somehow we didn’t communication it clearly enough.
“The people we have in our locker room, and the people we have upstairs in the coaches offices, they are all looking inward to figure out how we can get this thing going in the right direction.”
But after Thursday night’s 31-13 nationally televised loss to the Carolina Panthers, things may be changing inside a once optimistic locker room.
“We lost,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said when asked about explaining the loss. “They just beat us. They played better. (We) just took a beating. That’s it.
“We got outplayed. Just being honest man, we got outplayed. They schemed well and executed. I think at the beginning of the game we got a little overzealous and our eyes were all over the place but after that there’s nothing else to it. We just got outplayed.”
As the game progressed, it certainly looked as if the Buccaneers were getting outplayed. The defense gave up big runs by Cam Newton on third downs that extended drives and on his second half touchdown run, players appeared to simply watch Newton walk in for a touchdown.
“I don’t think there is a lack of confidence otherwise we wouldn’t be professionals,” McCoy said. “It’s just tough to keep losing.”
In the first four games of the 2013 season, Bucs’ opponents had a tough time scoring on them. Tampa Bay gave up just over 17 points per game but has given up 31 points in the last three. For whatever the reason, they are not playing at the level similar to that of the first four weeks.
Corner back Darrelle Revis was asked if the players are still believing in the scheme and game plan.
The honest Revis was candid as usual in his response.
“I don’t know … I don’t know,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We (have to) gameplan every week. We (have to) stick to the game plan. We have to abide by the game plan and what we have to do to win. I don’t think guys are literally going out there and trying to do their own thing. In every game there are mistakes up and down the board. The word that we have to focus on is consistency. At this point that’s a hard word for us to try to do, to try to be consistent and we’re not. We’re not being consistent across the board so it’s hurting us.”
On Friday, in open locker room, safety Dashon Goldson was asked if the team still respected Schiano.
“We have high respect for this coach,” Goldson said. “He has taken a lot of scrutiny off the field. He has a job to do and we do as players. We are just trying to do the best we can do to prepare every week to try and win a football game and leave the outside stuff to the outsiders.
“(But no) he hasn’t lost the locker room. I’m sure you would hear it from the players in the locker room. And the mindset, everyone comes in every week to work and stay in and prepare every week to win football games. There has been no complaining, there are no issues. It is a good work environment.”
As the season progresses, things may get worse if changes don’t happen soon. Fans are growing impatient, crying out for some sort of change and billboards are popping up urging the Glazers to fire Schiano. They too are frustrated and voiced their displeasure as the players and coaches headed to the locker room following the team's seventh straight loss.
“I think a lot of the things they said wasn’t cool,” McCoy said about the fans following the game. “I understand being frustrated but you still have to have a little class. The stuff they were saying was just uncalled for.”
On Friday, less than 24 hours after the loss. McCoy again reiterated his point while also defending his head coach from a segment of fans who shouted obscenities at Schiano as he exited the field on Thursday night following the loss.
"A lot of fans got upset with me, and they have to understand what I was saying," McCoy said. "I never said they were wrong for being angry or disappointed. What I said was disrespecting a man, as a person, is wrong. It is a love-hate thing. You love the fact they are so angry because they want to win just as bad as us. You hate the fact you have to put them through that.
"But just keep it to the game. We have lives outside of football.
"When you disrespect a man, as a person, then you are taking it too far. That was my message. If you want to be angry about the game, then be angry, we are angry too. But don't disrespect him as a man. That man has a wife and he has kids at home. Just keep it to football. Don't take it outside of that."
While McCoy was quick to defend Schiano from the personal attacks by some fans, the Pro Bowl defensive tackle didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement for the scheme and how the coaching staff is using him and the other 10 players on defense at times.
“As long as he is our coach we are going to have respect for him,” McCoy said. “And we are going to play as hard as we can for him. It is as simple as that.”
McCoy was asked if he believes in the gameplan and if the staff is putting the team in the best position to win.
“That’s not my job, I just run the calls I am told to do, whether I agree with it or not,” McCoy said. “For me to not run the calls would not be right. But hey, I don’t get paid to coach or come up with game plans.”
McCoy was asked about the use of multiple stunts that appeared to allow Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to break free on several runs where there was little outside containment.
“I don’t get paid to coach,” McCoy said. “I get paid to play. I’m just going to leave it at that. That is going to be my answer every time. We can run stunts, and if that’s what they call then that’s what I’m going to run.”
On Thursday Sapp was very vocal that the Bucs coaching staff isn’t doing McCoy any favors in how he is being utilized.
“Right now they are wasting Gerald McCoy on the left side not moving him, flipping him from side to side,” Sapp said. “He is the exact player I am if not bigger and better. But if you let him swing side to side and let him find the mismatch and then once it starts upfront, then you have started a fire that runs through the whole defense. And there is not a better back end in the NFL then what we have in Tampa, and we are not taking advantage of it.”
PewterReport.com asked McCoy if he had spoken to Sapp over the last couple days and if Sapp shared his feelings that he expressed on Thursday.
“I talked to him yesterday, I talked to him this morning and I just got off the phone with him, so yes I have,” McCoy said. “Of course he did. Has No. 99 not ever shared his thoughts?”
The level of frustration inside the locker room – and outside – is clearly evident in the tone of the players and the venom of some fans. At 0-7 with no definite end in sight, the frustration will continue to grow until the team can string off several wins or a change in the coaching staff takes place. If neither happens soon, the Buccaneers locker room may erupt and bad may go to worse, if that’s even possible.
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