Was that the Buccaneers’ fifth preseason game or the first regular season game of the year? It’s so hard to tell in Tampa Bay under the watchful, micromanaging eye of head coach Greg Schiano.
Bucs fans, I was wrong.
I believed in the talent on the roster and the new talent that general manager Mark Dominik had acquired through free agency, such as free safety Dashon Goldson, through trades, like the one that acquired cornerback Darrelle Revis, and through the draft, where players like cornerback Johnthan Banks and defensive tackle Akeem Spence were found.
I believed that the bevy of talented players in Tampa Bay could flip the switch and turn off a dreadful, uninspiring preseason and turn on some Pro Bowl-caliber performances and beat up on a talent-void New York Jets team in Week 1. Some players, like wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had seven catches for 154 yards in a stunning 18-17 loss at New York, did just that.
The thing is, I still believe in the Bucs players.
But after watching an offense sputter, stall and struggle to generate just 17 points, witnessing a rookie quarterback do enough to prevail in his first NFL game against the revamped defense, and watching the Bucs record a whopping 13 penalties for 102 yards, I don’t have a lot of faith in Schiano and his coaching staff.
Folks, it looked like amateur hour out there, didn’t it?
Especially in the first quarter when there was communication issues with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s walkie-talkie and quarterback Josh Freeman’s headset (again), and the Bucs were piling up delay of game penalties and false starts until it said third-and-35 on the scoreboard at MetLife Stadium.
The Bucs just weren’t prepared for the regular season, and that’s Schiano’s fault.
I hoped that new quarterbacks coach John McNulty could get Freeman, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the preseason, to complete more than 50 percent of his passes against the Jets. Unfortunately, Freeman didn’t.
I had hoped that Schiano’s decision to make it a priority to get backup quarterback Mike Glennon ready to play this season if needed, instead of getting Freeman into an offensive rhythm wouldn’t backfire.
It sure did.
I hoped that Schiano’s decision, which now looks bone-headed, to only give Doug Martin three carries (for four yards) in the preseason wouldn’t backfire because Martin is coming off a 1,454-yard rushing season.
It did, miserably, as Martin averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, as there were very few holes to run through.
I hoped that Sullivan would realize that the Jets defense was pretty good at stopping the run, and formulate a realistic backup plan in case the Bucs couldn’t get Martin going on the ground.
I hoped that Bob Bostad’s offensive line would quit giving away sacks like candy at Halloween, but left tackle Donald Penn, who struggled in the preseason, gave up two more, along with one by tight end Luke Stocker.
“Offensively, it’s frustrating for everyone because we have good players,” Schiano said. “We will find a rhythm with this offense. We certainly haven’t found it yet, but we will. … Doug has not played a lot. So you think, okay with Doug in there it will be better, and Davin [Joseph] is in there, but it wasn’t good.
“It’s not the running game we’re going to have, that’s what I mean when I say the rhythm of our offense. I just don’t feel like we’re in a rhythm. We better get it figured out fast – six days to be exact.”
Isn’t what that the preseason is for – to get your offense into a game rhythm, Coach?
Schiano was too busy finding a number-two running back – that didn’t get a carry against the Jets, by the way. And he was too busy playing Glennon – who also didn’t play against the Jets.
Blame Freeman’s ups-and-downs as a passer for the Bucs’ loss if you want. Blame Lavonte David’s late hit on Geno Smith for Tampa Bay’s defeat if you wish.
This loss falls squarely on Schiano and the coaching staff’s shoulders because the Bucs clearly weren’t prepared to play the Jets, and that’s inexcusable.
Didn’t Schiano and the coaches have the entire offseason to watch film and study the Jets? It’s been over four months since the NFL schedule came out, letting Tampa Bay know it would face the Jets in New York in Week 1.
Did Schiano and the coaches not realize that Smith – who rushed for 47 yards against the Bucs, including a critical, 10-yard jaunt to put the Jets in position to kick the game-winning field goal – ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and could scramble? Why didn’t the Bucs defense do a better job containing him, especially on the final drive?
Schiano was asked on Friday what the difference was between this year’s season kickoff game and Week 1 from a year ago when he made his debut as an NFL head coach.
“There’s a lot more certainty, so does that make you more comfortable? I guess it does,” Schiano said. “Going into our first game last year – now, you had the four preseason games, but everybody will tell you, coach and player alike, that it’s a different game [in the regular season].”
The problem is Schiano spent too much time in the preseason trying to figure out the final roster spots for the 53-man roster and which Bucs were going to be on the practice squad rather than preparing his starting 22 players for the Jets. Now it’s coming back to haunt him with a horrific loss to the Jets.
For someone who is regarded – and almost chastised – for being a micromanager, I’m really concerned about Schiano’s ability to plan after this loss to the Jets, and for him to ultimately see what lies ahead.
Before I continue, it’s necessary for me to illuminate something for the Bucs fans out there about their supposedly detail-oriented head coach. Since Schiano has assumed the reins as Tampa Bay’s head coach, the media are typically kept in the dark about practice times, media availability in the locker room and press conferences until the day – and sometimes the night – before, which makes it incredibly difficult for reporters to do their jobs.
For example, the Bucs’ public relations staff – which is completely at the head coach’s mercy and deserves no blame when it comes to scheduling press conferences and media availability – had to send out a press release at 10:41 p.m. on Sunday, September 1 notifying the media of a time change in Schiano’s press conference from 12:05 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. the next day.
If this were a once-in-a-while occurrence it would be one thing, but it’s not. As I type this on Monday morning, I only know the Bucs’ media availability and press conference time for today – not for the rest of the week.
That’s ridiculous and completely unnecessary.
If Schiano doesn’t have his practice schedule and media availability times already mapped out for the upcoming week, then the Buccaneers are in some serious trouble because this guy is just unprepared and must not have a regular routine. If he does have the schedule, then why unnecessarily upset the media and not release it on Sunday night?
Schiano's not winning over any reporters or gaining allies in the media that he will need when the heat starts rising as the losses mount this year.
Tony Dungy was able to send out a weekly media schedule on Sunday night. Jon Gruden did it, too, and those are the two most winningest coaches in Tampa Bay history.
Heck, even Raheem Morris let the media know the schedule for the entire upcoming week on Sunday nights. It’s really not that hard.
The fact that Schiano can’t even release an upcoming practice and press conference schedule until the day prior is very troubling, but I digress.
Back to Schiano not realizing what the Bucs’ mistake-ridden loss to the Jets could ultimately mean. It means Tampa Bay has virtually no shot at selling out its home opener against New Orleans, which hits the marketing department and the Glazers hard.
It angers the Bucs fan base because the game will almost certainly be blacked out (which may actually be a good thing for faint-hearted Bucs fans).
It primes the Bucs for a disastrous 0-2 start given the high expectations heading into the season if they can’t upset the 1-0 Saints.
By the way, who is Rex Ryan's brother? Rob Ryan, New Orleans' new defensive coordinator. You don't think Rex told Rob how to take away Martin and stop the Bucs offense, which failed to generate 300 yards on Sunday? He presented the blueprint for the Saints, who are now running the same 3-4 defense.
Not that Rob Ryan needs much help. His Cowboys defense caused Freeman to have his worst game in 2012 as Tampa Bay lost at Dallas in Week 3. Freeman completed 10-of-28 passes (35.7 percent) for 110 yards with one TD, one INT and a fumble.
Even if Tampa Bay can turn the season around with a win before a 0-3 nightmare becomes a reality with a looming defeat in New England to a team with another stout, 3-4 defense, the loss to the Jets will come back to bite them when it comes time to make a postseason run. You have to win your winnable games in the NFL, and the Jets game was definitely winnable had the Bucs been adequately prepared.
The other thing Schiano needs to start realizing is that he isn’t loved by his players. I’ve heard too many whispers from some Buccaneers that are growing tired of his micromanaging ways.
Remember how the Bucs absolutely revered and believed in Dungy?
Remember how they loved playing for the fiery Gruden?
The Buccaneers even adored Morris in 2010 until taking advantage of his lax ways in 2011.
When was the last time you read a quote or heard a sound byte from the Bucs players saying they loved Schiano? You’ve heard them say that a change from Morris was needed, and that they appreciate the business-like approach at One Buc Place now, but do the players love Schiano?
If they did, they would voluntary admit it. It would flow naturally in interviews like it has before with Dungy, Gruden and Morris, but it doesn’t.
Asking the players that question in the locker room would do no good because they are so afraid of Schiano that all 53 players would lie through their teeth on the record in order to keep their jobs. The Bucs might respect Schiano, and some might even like him.
But they don’t love Schiano, and they won’t until he can prove that he can win. And that means a 9-7 record this year or better. After the season-opening loss to the Jets – good luck with that.
It’s amazing how Freeman used to be a 62-percent passer before all the micromanaging started last year.
Wear a knee brace. Don’t scramble. Only throw to this receiver. Do this. Don’t do that.
It’s no wonder that Freeman, who hasn’t completed at least 50 percent of his passes in the preseason or the regular season now, has a bewildered look on his face. He doesn’t look prepared or comfortable.
That’s funny. Neither did Schiano on Sunday during his post-game press conference trying to explain how his team bungled the 2013 season-opener in New York.
What is Schiano’s motto? TBA?
Trust, belief, accountability?
There’s not a lot of trust between Schiano and the media, who won't likely give him the benefit of the doubt if he doesn't produce a winning record with all of the talent on this Tampa Bay team. I imagine some will even be gunning for him if he doesn’t win this year for the aforementioned reasons.
Do the players believe in Schiano? Not sure after Sunday’s loss. There just feels like a disconnect between the coaches and the players that I haven't felt at One Buc Place since the Sam Wyche days.
And accountability? Where is it?
The one thing missing from Schiano’s press conference was him accepting blame for Sunday’s mess. I always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Gruden, who had no problem looking the cameras in the eye and accepting blame for lousy play-calling and his team’s performance in losses in his post-game press conferences.
Schiano, this one’s one you.
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