SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE SCHIANO IS FIREDOn September 27 I wrote the following about Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano in a SR’s Fab 5 column:
“If Tampa Bay starts the season 0-5 Schiano needs to be fired in-season and replaced with Dave Wannstedt in October as the interim head coach. In my eyes Glennon shouldn’t be used as an excuse to buy more time for Schiano if the team whimpers to a 1-10 record in the last 11 games. Enough time. Too many losses. At 0-5, it’s time for general manager Mark Dominik to show some guts, end the ridiculous media circus and constant distractions in Tampa Bay and fire Schiano, or have the Glazers admit their mistake and move on in 2014 to pursue Bill Cowher or a head coaching candidate that actually has had success in the NFL.”
I was viewed as being a partisan then, taking a pro-Josh Freeman stance and taking an anti-Greg Schiano stance. Some Bucs fans said I was biased in my reporting because Freeman went to my alma mater, Kansas State, or because it looked like I threw a fit because Schiano is so unorganized that he couldn’t tell the media more than 24 hours in advance when to show up to One Buccaneer Place for press conferences, practices times and open locker room time.
I’ve been covering the Buccaneers professionally for 18 years, and I’ve always maintained the conviction that a coach should be fired by the win-loss column, not by the Sunday column in the newspaper. In other words, forget the coach’s personality, or his personnel decisions, or the fact that he may have ruffled a few feathers with the media. My philosophy is that a coach should really only be fired if he can’t win.
In my 18 year of as a Bucs beat writer, I have never called for a head coach to be fired. It was obvious it was going to happen in my first year on the job in 1995 when I covered Sam Wyche. After a 5-dash-2 start turned into a 7-dash-9 finish, Wyche was toast and everybody knew it. Saying “Fire Wyche” was stating the obvious.
The firing of Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden were both surprises that nobody in the media called for, but after both moves were made one could at least see some reason and logic behind the decisions at the time – at least enough to justify the Glazers removing the two most popular and successful coaches in franchise history.
During his 10-game losing streak after a 4-2 start, Raheem Morris was a dead man walking, and even he knew it. The way the season was ending with blowout losses galore, nobody in the media really needed to say, “Fire Morris.” It was inevitable. He was a dead man walking. Morris’ jovial personality and the relationships he had cultivated with the media allowed for a somewhat graceful exit.
The media loved Morris, but recognized his shortcomings. Still, Morris’ friendly style and ability to give a great quote bought him time and mercy with the media across the board. Many today would have liked to have seen what he could have done with more talent had the Glazers decided to open up the checkbook during his regime instead of continually giving him the youngest team in the NFL year after year.
Which brings us to Schiano. I don’t know, but I was able to forecast a 0-5 start to the 2013 season after a 0-3 start, so much so that I decided to stick my neck – and my reputation – on the line and state that if the Bucs started off 0-5 that Schiano should be fired. This was back in September, and PewterReport.com was the first major media outlet in the country to even suggest it.
Some said that I must have a personal axe to grind with Schiano for doing so, while many applauded my recommendation. I can tell you that there’s nothing personal towards Schiano. I don’t have any relationship with him, but neither do any members of the media, and that’s the way he’s wanted it.
I’ve never met a more standoff-ish coach before, one that purposely keeps the media at an arm’s length because he doesn’t see the need to talk to the media or form relationships with reporters. The truth is that if Schiano was well liked and had taken the time to work with the media instead of against the media he might have some allies that could make excuses for his Buccaneers and attempt to quell the angry fan base and buy Schiano more time.
But he doesn’t. Schiano doesn’t have one ally in the local media, and probably not one in national media outside of his Jersey buddy, Peter King, who defended him early but has gone silent in recent weeks as the losses have mounted. That’s Schiano’s fault.
But this isn’t about relationships. This is – and always has been for me – about examining the data and drawing conclusions. For some reason after Week 3 and I could see this train wreck coming after looking at the data.
After a 0-3 start to the 2013 season, the Bucs had won just once in the last nine games at that point in time. Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t capable of finishing games, the offense was putrid and Schiano and his coaching staff were too slow to make in-game adjustments.
Forget the whole embarrassing Freeman debacle and the MRSA affliction that hit One Buccaneer Place and have created negative headlines locally and nationally. Losing 10 of 11 games, in my mind, was enough to constitute a coaching change. Folks, it’s about the wins and the losses and always has been with me. So for the first time in my career, I called for Schiano to be fired, and PewterReport.com became the first media outlet to explicitly do so.
While most of the Bucs fan base agreed with my assertion, there was still a segment of fans that disagreed with me – even some members of the media were hesitant to see what I was seeing. But two weeks later after last night’s 31-13 embarrassing loss to Carolina, Schiano’s firing seems more inevitable, and other media members decided to pile on.
Now there are billboards around Tampa that say “Fire Schiano,” and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with the same moniker. I had a conversation following the game in which I learned that Schiano would be fired during the season barring a miracle.
The Glazers want some time to think about it, but I was told that the heat applied locally by PewterReport.com and talk radio mostly, and the heat applied in national columns from Andrew Brandt and Michael Silver among others has helped turn the Bucs fan base against Schiano.
The truth is going 0-7 and losing 12 of his last 13 games is what has turned the fan base against Schiano. People like me are only pointing out the obvious.
It’s about wins and losses. It always has been and always will be with coaches. They get hired to win and they get fired when they don’t win enough. Coaches are hired to be fired in most cases.
Schiano, who signed a five-year, $15-million deal in 2012, will be fired, too. If it doesn’t happen this weekend, and it could with Dave Wannstedt and Butch Davis as the most logical in-house candidates because of their previous NFL head coaching experience, it could happen after next Sunday’s expected loss to the 6-1 Seahawks at Seattle.
It’s only a matter of time.
FAB 2. JOSEPH OBVIOUSLY NOT BACK TO 100 PERCENTIf he didn’t have the dreadlocks, the big smile, the huge hands and arms, the double-barreled chest and a No. 75 jersey you would swear that the person playing right guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is not Davin Joseph.
The right guard playing for the Bucs this year has held, has given up sacks, has given up tackles for loss and has been flagged for an illegal hands to the face that negated a fourth quarter touchdown pass last week at Atlanta. Against Carolina on Thursday night, Joseph surrendered a sack and also was guilty of holding. The right guard playing for the Bucs this year looks nothing like Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler and a team captain.
Yet it is, and at times Joseph looks like a shell of his former self. He looks slow off the ball in the run game, and off balance in his pass protection. We notice those plays, don’t we?
And there are times when Joseph fires off the ball and opens up the hole or stonewalls a pass rusher cold at the line of scrimmage. Yet, we don’t really notice those, do we?
Offensive linemen generally don’t get noticed when they do anything right, except when they are spotlighted in a one-on-one matchup against a fierce pass rusher and do their job, or when Pro Bowl ballots are tabulated. We notice them when blocks or missed on third-and-1 situations, or when the quarterback gets sacked or when a false start turns a third-and-3 situation into a third-and-8, or a holding call negates a first down or a touchdown.
For years we haven’t noticed Joseph except around December when he has been named to the Pro Bowl or perhaps on a play or two on a Sunday when he is running downfield lead blocking on a touchdown run or picking a defensive player off the pile right before the whistle.
Now we can’t help but notice Joseph, and wince when we do. We watch his unsteady blocking and realize that the player that was once the epitome of stellar play looks, well, average.
We know that while he is medically cleared to play after missing the entire 2012 season with a serious knee injury, he is not at 100 percent health-wise, nor is he 100 percent back to being the dominant Davin Joseph that followers of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come to expect.
“I’m close, I’m close to playing at that high level again,” Joseph said. “Being out of football for a year, I didn’t know it was going to be this hard of a challenge, and it definitely is a challenge. Missing training camp and the preseason … as a player you kind of take it for granted and you kind of go through the motions when you are healthy sometimes. But it really helps a lot in terms of getting to a high level of play. You need it, and I didn’t practice much in training camp because of my rehab. Now I’m using my reps, my mental reps and even the games as my training camp – during the season – to help me get back to where I was and where I need to be.
“Those first four games of the regular season were actually my preseason games as far as getting back into football shape and conditioning. The bye week came at the right time as I was dealing with a lot of the soreness that guys usually feel in August during training camp. In training camp, you have to get your body accustomed to the beating and you are ready to go by September. I was still in that process until the bye week.”
After the bye week, Joseph suffered a bruise on his non-surgically repaired knee, and that has slowed his comeback as he tries to regain his pre-injury form. Prior to his bruised knee, Joseph was just getting used to finding his balance again as a pro football player, and dealing with the same situation that cornerback Darrelle Revis is. Like Joseph, Revis is coming off a torn ACL, and as a result of rehab, he has one leg that is bigger than the other one.
“I have the same deal as Darrelle, and you hear the same thing from guys that have had a leg injury,” Joseph said. “One leg will lack size compared to the other one, but it may actually be stronger than the other one because you rehabbed that leg so much it got all of the attention. Your injured leg actually becomes your stronger leg and you lose some balance in your lower body as a result.
“Everybody always says that with leg injuries there is an imbalance where it just takes a while to get back to normal if you ever do. Whenever you tear a ligament or a tendon it takes a while to get that natural balance back where you aren’t overcompensating for one leg and you aren’t leaning more one way or the other. It takes awhile to get that balance back.”
Outside of a broken foot, Joseph has been relatively injury-free during his playing days dating back to high school in Hallendale, Fla., and the 6-foot-3, 313-pounder admits he doesn’t know exactly how to get back to his dominant ways.
“This is the first major injury I’ve ever had, and it’s the same with Darrelle,” Joseph said. “Thank God this is my first major one and hopefully my last major one, but I don’t have any personal reference about how to come back. It’s unchartered territory, and you have to lean on the training staff and the medical staff to get you back. Everyone is very experienced here and they have done a great job of getting me back on the field. Now I have to get back to the old me.
“There is a big difference between being cleared to play and back to playing at your standard. You can kind of see that Rob Gronkowski is going through that. He was just recently cleared to play, but he’s not going to be playing to his standard for quite some time. It will take him a little while.”
Each year, dozens of NFL players suffer season-ending ACL injuries or torn patellar tendons. Joseph suffered both. Typically, players can come back in nine months, but it usually takes a full year of being back on the field before they reach their previous level of play.
Of course having a freakish athlete like Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL in 2011 and then came back to lead the NFL in rushing with over 2,000 yards last year ruins it for players like Joseph and Revis because it creates a false set of expectations for fans.
“Even for Adrian Peterson he was limited with his carries for the first couple of weeks and he was limited with his yardage,” Joseph said. “They only used him in certain packages at the beginning when he first came back.”
That’s true. Despite rushing for 2,097 yards in 2012, Peterson only had one 100-yard rushing game in the first six weeks of the season while he only averaged 18 carries per game. Over the final 10 weeks of the season, Peterson averaged nearly 24 carries per game, and had nine 100-yard games, including seven where he rushed for over 150 yards.
What helps skill position players like Peterson, and even cornerbacks like Revis, rebound from season-ending knee injuries is the fact that they can be substituted in and out of the lineup to rest on the sidelines for a few plays. That doesn’t happen on the offensive line for players like Joseph, who have to fight through pain, discomfort and imbalance on every offensive snap.
“Playing offensive line is a full-time gig,” Joseph said. “They don’t rotate offensive linemen in and out. As the rules changes about football, there’s not much that changes up front with us. The trenches are the trenches. There are only five of us and it’s a man’s world in there. It’s survival of the fittest. It hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, and there is no tapping out in there.”
And Joseph is hurting. It’s not just his bruised knee, or his surgically repaired knee. It’s his pride.
In 2011, Joseph, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2006, signed a seven-year, $53-million contract, including $19 million guaranteed. Joseph rewarded the team for its faith in him by making his second Pro Bowl following the 2011 season. No one wants Joseph to regain his Pro Bowl-caliber form more than he does.
“When your legs are tired and everything is sore you still have to go out and play at a high level,” Joseph said. “That’s my challenge right now, and I’m getting close to being back to my old self. I’ve got to hang in there and keep battling and it will come, and I’ll be back.”
FAB 3. ALL OF CLAYBORN’S SACKS HAVE COME FROM THE LEFT SIDEWhile Davin Joseph has been slow to rebound from his 2012 knee injury, Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn has made a successful return from a torn ACL in Week 3 last year that cost him much of the 2012 campaign. Instead of playing strictly on the right side of the line where he registered 7.5 sacks and forced three fumbles as a rookie in 2011, Clayborn now plays on the weakside of the defense, which causes him to line up on either the left or the right side.
In his first three games last year Clayborn struggled because he did too much thinking. As the right defensive end he would be required to play one technique if his side was the weakside of the defense and a different technique if a tight end lined up to his side and that became the strongside. This year, defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan simplified the defense and has Clayborn only playing on the weakside – whether that is on the left or the right side of the formation, so he’ll end up playing both sides of the line as a result.
The Bucs feel like Clayborn is the most complete defensive end on the team, and the second-best pass rusher behind Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Placing him away from the tight end typically frees him up more often and creates more of one-on-one situation for him to operate against.
Clayborn has a great combination of power and speed, and that has given right tackles, that are typically bigger and less agile, problems all year.
“I wouldn’t say I’m finesse, but you do have to switch it up,” Clayborn said. “I switch it up with my power and quickness. You are going up against different guys sometimes, but you can’t throw them the same move every time. You can’t be a one-trick pony. You have to be able to learn how to do both in this league.”
Ironically, all three of Clayborn’s sacks this season have come on the left side, including one against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
“That’s a credit to Gerald by him getting up field and me wrapping around him,” Clayborn said. “That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing on the left side.”
Clayborn’s teammate, rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence, is in awe of the way he aggressively plays the game.
“He plays so physical and he likes to get in your face,” Spence said. “I feel bad for the tackles because when he decides to put his head in your chest he does it, and it’s effective. He has a bull rush like I’ve never seen before.
“He’s playing at a high level rushing the passer. He runs sideline to sideline and makes a lot of plays. I’m impressed, and I’m happy to be on the same team as A.C. I’m just watching him and learning how to play the game of football. I watch him and Gerald and try to mimic what they’re doing and how they play.”
One interesting wrinkle in Clayborn’s game this year is the fact that he is standing up on occasion in a two-point stance, typically at left end, while rushing the passer. That’s how Clayborn swooped in and sacked Newton on Thursday night.
“They let me do it,” Clayborn said. “They let me decide if I want to do it or not. I’ve been liking it so far. It’s fun and it’s something new. I’m trying to develop it every week.” The fact that Clayborn has had success playing left defensive end is a remarkable achievement, given that NFL scouts downgraded him prior to the 2011 draft because he has Erb’s Palsy, which is a condition where his right arm and shoulder tends to be weaker than his left.
“I never played left end before so I guess there was some uncertainty, but as far as my physical ability that wasn’t the reason why,” Clayborn said. “The experts talked about it and discussed it before the draft to give the fans something to talk about, but as far as me being able to play left end, I think I’m good.”
Three sacks is testament that Clayborn’s right arm and shoulder are just fine.
FAB 4. RAINEY IS AN INTERESTING ADDITION FOR TAMPA BAYThe Buccaneers signed running back Bobby Rainey to add depth to the position while Doug Martin recovers from his shoulder injury. Whether or not Rainey sticks on Tampa Bay’s roster past November 11, which is Martin’s expected return, he is an interesting talent with an interesting story.
Rainey entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky in 2012, signing with Baltimore last year, but not seeing any playing time until he landed in Cleveland this year. In limited duty, Rainey carried the ball 13 times for 34 yards (2.6 avg.), caught four passes for 19 yards and returned six kickoffs for 147 yards.
Just when Rainey was starting to feel like he had an NFL future with the Browns given Trent Richardson’s departure to Indianapolis via a trade, he was cut by Cleveland.
“It’s been crazy,” Rainey said. “I thought I was going to be in Cleveland for a while and then I was released on Friday. Then I found out on Monday that I was going to be here. It’s been a crazy situation, especially with the baby. There’s a lot going on right now.”
The baby? With Rainey traveling across the country to play football, his significant other is nine months pregnant.
“She’s due any time now,” Rainey said. “It’s my first one, so I’m very excited. She’s due between now and November 6.”
So what’s going to happen if the phone rings on a game day and Rainey’s lady is labor? Would he choose to play or take a flight to the hospital?
“I don’t know, that’s something I need to talk to Coach about,” Rainey said. “We’ll cross that road when it gets here. She’s in Paducah right now, and she’s from Paducah, Kentucky.”
Wonder what Greg Schiano, who isn’t exactly a player’s coach, would say about Rainey missing a game to witness his first child being born? Interesting to think about, but Rainey needs to earn a living by making a solid impression by showing off the talent he displayed in college.
At Western Kentucky, Rainey was the Hilltoppers’ workhorse back. After carrying the ball 179 times for 1,179 yards and six touchdowns during his first two seasons, Rainey became the full-time starter as a junior, rushing for 340 times for 1,649 yards (4.9 avg.) and 15 touchdowns to finish in the top 5 in the nation in rushing, in addition to catching 29 passes for 230 yards.
As a senior, Rainey was a marked man, but was also the epitome of consistency, rushing for 1,695 yards on 369 carries (4.6 avg.), while catching 36 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns. Rainey was so involved in the Hilltoppers’ offense that he also completed 3-of-5 halfback passes in his career for 53 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But despite 972 touches on offense, Rainey still has plenty of tread left on his tires.
“I carried the ball between 25-30 carries per game, but since I’ve been in the league I’ve barely carried it,” Rainey said. “I’ve had about two years of rest. I’m ready to go.
“Anything I can do to help the team as far as special teams or as a running back or in pass protection. I’m more of a scatback – more like a [Darren] Sproles-type.”
While Rainey is a newcomer to Tampa, he has a very familiar face right around the corner in University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggert, who was his head coach at Western Kentucky.
“He called me [Tuesday], so most likely we’ll get together this week,” Rainey said. “Basically I’m diving into the playbook right now and trying to learn as much as I can. I’m here to help the team, but I have to know what I’m doing in order to help the team. I’m in the playbook already. It’s a lot, and it’s different, but I started knowing a few of the plays. I’m ready to help out.”
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Because he was limited in practice during the month of August as he rehabbed his knee, count Bucs right guard Davin Joseph as one of those few veterans who actually sees the need for all of the hot, daily practices without much rest during the week as a means to prepare for the regular season.
“Getting back in football shape isn’t just conditioning,” Joseph said. “It’s about getting your body’s ability to recover on a day-to-day basis from practices and week-to-week basis from games. Training camp is necessary. It’s a necessary deal. Even as you get older with all of the experience you may have you still need training camp. I’m getting close, but I still have to deal with the challenge of consistently getting better and better each week.”
• Aside from being physical, what else has Tampa Bay rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence learned from veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn?
“Don’t let one bad play turn into two,” Spence said. “With this game you are going to make a lot of mistakes, and you just have to bounce back. He told me he’s made a lot of mistakes his first couple of years and you just have to learn from them and go on to the next play. The coaches aren’t going to pull you out just because you make a mistake because they believe in you, otherwise you wouldn’t be out there. So you just have to learn from it and move on.”
• One of the marks of a great head coach is the type of assistant coaches he hires. How far do the roots and branches of a head coach’s coaching tree spread? Bill Walsh had future NFL head coaches Mike Holmgren, Jim Fassel, Sam Wyche, George Seifert and Dennis Green on his staff in San Francisco. Marty Schottenheimer once had Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards on his staff in Kansas City. Bill Parcells had Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Tony Sparano on his staff in New York.
In Tampa Bay, Dungy hired Edwards and other future NFL coaches in Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith, as well as the legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. In addition to these coaches, others such as Mike Shula, Clyde Christensen and Joe Barry have also been successful assistant coaches and coordinators in the NFL and in college.
Although he doesn’t get enough credit for it, Jon Gruden has hired several assistant coaches that have had a lot of success in Tampa Bay and elsewhere:
Rich Bisaccia – Cowboys special teams coordinatorAaron Kromer – Bears offensive coordinatorNathaniel Hackett – Bills offensive coordinatorKyle Shanahan – Redskins offensive coordinatorJay Gruden – Bengals offensive coordinatorJeremy Bates – former Bears quarterbacks coachBill Callahan – Cowboys offensive coordinatorRaheem Morris – Redskins defensive backs coach
Hackett, Bates, Shanahan and his brother, Jay, got their first big NFL breaks under Gruden, who also employed Kiffin, Marinelli, Tomlin and linebackers coach Joe Barry in Tampa Bay. Now compare that to Schiano’s staff.
Dave Wannstedt and Butch Davis have former head coaching experience. Bill Sheridan has previously been an NFL defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was previously a quarterbacks coach, quarterbacks coach John McNulty has coached in the NFL and in college, as has wide receivers coach John Garrett. Both pass rush coach Bryan Cox and running backs coach Earnest Byner have also been in the league.
But where are the developmental coaches? Where are the rising stars on Schiano’s staff? Is there anyone destined for greatness on the staff? Is there a Marinelli or a Morris on the staff? At 0-7 it certainly doesn’t seem like it.
• And finally, don’t let the fact that the Buccaneers are trying hard and not quitting fool you. The players aren’t necessarily trying hard because they are playing for head coach Greg Schiano. Instead, they are playing for themselves and each other.
This is a very tight knit team and the players really get along well and enjoy playing for each other. They aren’t playing hard to save the coach’s job. They are playing hard to save themselves. They’ve seen the starting quarterback get benched and then released in a contract year. That sends a message from the tyrannical Schiano that no one’s job is safe. That’s why the players will be very guarded with their comments later today about whether they believe in Schiano or not. They don’t want to get released like Josh Freeman did.
One Buccaneer Place has become a toxic work environment – and not due to MRSA. Schiano is a very tightly-wound dictator that creates an atmosphere of fear and has the players playing very uptight way. Once he’s fired, don’t be surprised if an interim head coach like Dave Wannstedt has some success at the end of the season in terms of getting the players to play looser and more relaxed. That should result in at least a couple of wins given the talent on this football team.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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