While the “Fire Schiano” billboards still can be seen throughout the Tampa Bay area, the fire from a segment of Buccaneers fans, and some in the media, is starting to cool.
Putting together back-to-back wins can do that for a beleaguered Tampa Bay team and its embattled head coach.
While ultimately Bucs head coach Greg Schiano’s fate for 2014 and beyond will be determined by results on the scoreboard rather than a billboard, those inside the locker room are starting to offer up praise for Schiano.
Since Sunday afternoon, when the Buccaneers played their most complete game of the season in a 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons, a number of players have come to the defense of their head coach.
Offensive guard Davin Joseph, who has seen a lot in his eight seasons as a Buccaneer, offered strong words to the media later Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t think it could have got any worse for [Coach Schiano],” Joseph said. “But the guy stuck with it, [and] stayed with what he believed in. And now it’s finally paying off. It was tough for a while, new quarterback, the whole Josh Freeman thing, Doug [Martin] gets hurt. All these things. And people are ready to can us. And Coach Schiano was like, (Expletive). Keep your pads on and we’ll keep on working.’
“And you finally get the sense to where it’s like guys believe in him. You know what I mean? We’re becoming closer. It’s the first time I can actually really say that we’re a family now. I mean, it’s some tough times. All that stuff could have like broken us up and we could have been just getting blown out and not fighting and all that (expletive). But Coach Schiano, that’s a tough S.O.B.”
Joseph, a first-round pick in 2006, and who has seen three head coaches in his career, told the media this has been the most tumultuous season yet.
“Because it’s such a business, it’s so hard to say “family” in the NFL,” Joseph said. “[But the] dude’s been preaching it since he walked through the door. And sometimes you don’t really know where they’re coming from when they say that, and you blow it off the first time or the second time and you don’t really know where they’re coming from. ‘Family, family, family, family.’ But it makes sense now. I can really say now that we’re like a family. Guys trust him. Guys believe in him. All [that] he’s been saying has been coming true about just keeping your head down and working. Because it couldn’t have gotten any more negative at One Buc. It’s the worst it’s ever been, and I’ve been here for eight seasons. It was the worst it’s ever been. The dude is tough, man.”
Fellow offensive lineman Demar Dotson also talked highly of Schiano following Sunday’s win.
“He is an intense coach,” Dotson said. “He is one of those coaches that grows on you. Once you get used to him you start to love him. You start to love to play for him. I think when we had that eight-game losing streak – I’ve said the coach and the quarterback are going to take the most heat, which is unfair. But he kept us together. He kept us believing we could win. Which we already knew, but we had to get this thing together. But he held this ship together and we kept fighting. It was just unfair that he had to take the heat for the 0-8.”
During his Monday press conference Schiano talked about what getting that first win against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football did for the team in general.
“As I said after the game, I think it does (give the team confidence),” Schiano said. “As the weeks kept going that first win is always the hardest win and you’ll love to get it opening week right because once you get it out of the way it’s not an issue. There will be a day when that’s not an issue period, you just go out and you win the game; but when you’re trying to find your stride and you have a bunch of guys coming back and there’s a little bit of uncertainty. I mean who’s kidding who – this guy had surgery, that guy had surgery, a lot of guys thinking, ‘Am I going to be my old self?’ And then you don’t win. Certainly it loosened it up, but I think our fans helped that a great deal. That Monday night crowd the energy was incredible, you don’t know what it’s going to be like and yet those fans yesterday were incredible. I thought the energy was really good in our stadium and our players sense that.”
Schiano went on to discuss the grief that the 0-8 start caused the organization.
“I understand their (fans) frustration,” Schiano said. “It’s such a fine line (between winning and losing). It could be confidence, it could be guys coming back from their surgeries starting to feel more like their old self, it could be rookies that are getting the opportunity and are now gaining confidence.”
Since Sunday, the universal theme from the players was the fact that the team stuck together through the rough start, and not placing blame on anyone.
“I think collectively we all did a good job – coaches and players – of not pointing fingers,” Revis said. “During those times it can get real ugly. It can. Players can start mouthing off and saying things about the coaches in the papers or even at work. But guys have just been sticking together and guys haven’t been pointing fingers. We are just trying to find a way to win. To just try and get out of this slump we put ourselves in and try and find a way to win.”
Safety Mark Barron said Schiano deserves a lot of the credit for keeping the players focused on the next game.
“Each week when we went out and did what we did, we played with some of the best teams in the league and came out on the wrong end of it, and that was the first thing he (Schiano) said when we would come back in was, ‘Just make sure we stay together,’” Barron said. “He preached that every week, and I think guys listened to him.”
Veteran defensive tackle Gary Gibson, who is in his second stint playing for Schiano (Rutgers and now with Tampa Bay), said his coach has a method to his sometimes perceived madness.
“I have known Coach for a long time and I know how he goes about things,” Gibson said. “I know that he has had our best interests at all times. I know he works harder than anyone in this building, stays late. He is a guy you want to work hard for and play for. Sometimes you might think he is being too tough, but he is really just pushing you to your limits. Schiano is going to work you hard no matter what you are doing.”
How many wins is good enough for Schiano to keep his job? No one but the Glazer family know the answer. But if Schiano and the Bucs keep winning, he will at least have the players in the locker room firmly behind him.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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