Schiano says what eats him is the Bucs are close
The numbers must jump off the stat sheet at Bucs coach Greg Schiano. By this time next week, his team will likely have its first 4,000-yard passer, a running back with a franchise rookie rushing record of more than 1,300 yards and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers for the first time in club history.
But the only sum that matters is the win-loss record and a five game losing streak has turned a 6-4 start into a 6-9 disappointment under the first-year head coach.
"What's eating me right now is we're close, but close isn't what we're here for,'' Schiano said on Christmas Eve, a day after quarterback Josh Freeman threw four interceptions for the second straight game in a 28-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
"We've got to get where we start getting the five or six plays that determine the game on each side of the ball. Right now we're coming up 2-4. At 3-3, you've got a chance to win, but at 2-4, you're not going to win, especially if you do it on both sides. That's where we've kind of been here the last five weeks. But all the other games and this one included. That's what eats me because I know these guys can do it.''
Freeman, who was among the league's top passers after 10 weeks with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions, matched that number of picks in losses to the Saints and Rams the past two weeks. Schiano said he does not believe Freeman is forcing throws and that there is a fine line between making plays and bad decisions.
"I don't feel like he's pressing,'' Schiano said of Freeman. "I do feel he's an aggressive football player. He's got skills and he wants to use them. As I said yesterday, it is such a fine line between being a great play and pressing, a great play and forcing. You don't want to ever get your quarterback afraid.
"You look at any quarterback who is in that phase where he is, that 50-game area, that's where they start to really get it.''
Despite a second straight turnover-filled game, Freeman set three club records Sunday against the Rams. His 3,843 passing yards are the most in club history for a single season and left him 167 yards shy of 4,000. His touchdown pass to receiver Mike Williams gave Freeman 26 on the year, the most by any Bucs quarterback in a single season. He also tied Vinny Testaverde for the most career touchdown passes in team history with 77.
"Josh is getting it,'' Schiano said. "He is. He's got such a better understanding of the whole game. It takes all those repetitions and all those opportunities.''
After Sunday's loss, Bucs players and Schiano talked about what a great week of practice they had leading up to the Rams game. But Schiano indicated Monday some of the mistakes they made during the week showed up in the game.
"To be frank with you, a lot of the things we did really well in practice, we actually went out and did really well in the game,'' Schiano said. "Some of the things we didn't do so well in practice, bit us right in the rear end and was a contributing factor to some of those turnovers. You don't always play like you practice, the old adage. But this week, I think it pretty well held kind of consistent.
"Any time you turn the ball over, it's one of two reasons. It's decision-making, how you see things or you're carrying the ball less than securely. And I'll leave it at that. We did some things in practice that weren't what we wanted to see and it came out in the game.''
Schiano said he wasn't talking specifically about Freeman and the interceptions.
"No. Certainly some it, I mean, he touches the ball every play,'' Schiano said. "But it was coaching, it was playing. When I evaluate, I evaluate all of us, starting with me.''
Freeman wasn't the only culprit Sunday. The Bucs defense gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half when rookie Lavonte David bit hard on a play-action run fake.
"Chalk it up to a beginner's mistake,'' Schiano said.
But much has gone right for the Bucs this season, especially on offense. Both receivers Vincent Jackson (69 catches for 1,334 yards, 8 TDs, 19.3 avg.) and Mike Williams (57 catches, 931 yards, 8 TDs) could eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Doug Martin already has set the club's rookie rushing record with 1,312 yards and 10 TDs.
"Look, there's been a lot of things that have happened over the course of this year,'' Schiano said. "Some of the guys we started with aren't here, all that sort of stuff. But that doesn't matter. Again, we had opportunities to do it and we didn't coach well enough and we didn't play well enough to be on the positive side and that's what eats me.
"Now after the year, when I look back on the positive side of it and say, "oh, man we really had great momentum and it sputtered out. But when you're in the hunt, when you're in the fight, you've got to focus on we've got to get it corrected. The retrospective, that looking back, will be for a week or two from now.''