Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs, Schiano start second half still seeking a win

TAMPA — Greg Schiano dropped about 15 pounds in the offseason by exercising more and watching what he ate. But after the Bucs' 27-24 overtime defeat to the Seahawks on Nov. 3 that dropped Tampa Bay to 0-8, the only losing the coach could stop was his weight.

So he threw out the diet and had some chicken fingers on the bus to the airport. Then during the nearly six-hour flight home, he dined on a cheesesteak, burrito, M&M's and a Twix bar.

"I felt like I was in a coma after all that," Schiano said.

Halfway through his second season, Schiano is starved for his first win of 2013. Making his job security more tenuous, the Bucs are 1-13 over their past 14 games.

But eight games can be an eternity in the NFL, beginning with tonight's national TV appearance against Miami at sold-out Raymond James Stadium.

Do Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik (24-48 in his five seasons) have a chance to save their jobs?

"That's a good question for the simple fact that this is a business and I'm sure there's going to be a big evaluation at the end of the year — coaches and players," Bucs safety Dashon Goldson said. "But I think it would definitely help if we got the ball rolling and won a game."

What gives Schiano and the Bucs hope is despite losing running back Doug Martin and receiver Mike Williams for the season to injuries, they are not completely bereft of talent.

It's not a situation like rookie coach Gus Bradley faces in Jacksonville, where before winning Sunday, the Jaguars had gone 0-8 and lost each game by double digits. Half of the Bucs' losses are by a field goal or less.

That said, the Bucs will have to rally behind rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, rookie running back Mike James and rookie tight end Tim Wright.

"In this situation? Yes, it can change," Schiano said. "In some situations? No, if you got there because of your talent void, then it's going to be hard. That's not what we have. We have talented players but so do other teams."

While Schiano admits he never expected to be winless at this point in the season, it's certainly possible the team's talent was overrated.

A lot was made about the eight Pro Bowl players. But:

• Right guard Davin Joseph hadn't been there since 2011 and missed all of last season with a torn patellar tendon.

• Left tackle Donald Penn was an alternate in 2010.

• Left guard Carl Nicks has played just nine games in two seasons with Tampa Bay and is recovering from surgery to remove MRSA from his foot.

• Martin played in six games.

• Goldson has missed two games with a knee injury (but is set to return tonight).

• Cornerback Darrelle Revis hasn't been the same player since last year's ACL surgery but is starting to show flashes.

Only defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and receiver Vincent Jackson have been productive, albeit not at 2012 levels.

Linebacker Lavonte David is having a monster year and was named a midseason All-Pro by Sports Illustrated.

Of course, the biggest reason for the bagel in the win column is the offense, which scored a season-high 24 points against Seattle; specifically, the anvil tied around the quarterback position.

Had Schiano been left to his instincts, there's every indication he would have traded Josh Freeman in the offseason or — at the very least — benched him before an 0-3 start. His inaccuracy cost the Bucs games at the end of 2012. But at 25 and having set club records for yards (4,065) and touchdowns (27), the consensus of ownership and the front office was to go with Freeman.

After accusations of a rigged captain vote and a leak of his participation in the substance-abuse program, Freeman was released. He signed with the Vikings, struggled badly in his only start and now is their No. 3 quarterback.

Glennon, a third-round pick, has exceeded expectations. His eight touchdown passes are tied with the Jets' Geno Smith for first among rookies. His passing efficiency has increased each week, culminating with a 123.1 rating at Seattle. He also has thrown 141 consecutive passes without an interception.

Because Glennon — "a new toy," Schiano called him — was so adept at spreading the football around to running backs, tight ends and wideouts, the Bucs got carried away and lost balance. Until last week, Glennon was averaging 45.3 passes per game.

"Everybody was so excited," Schiano said. "But at the end of the day, you don't win games that way. There's an old saying: 'You throw the ball to score points, you run the ball to win.'

"Some would say, 'He's taking a shot at (offensive coordinator Mike) Sullivan.' I'm not taking a shot at anybody. That is me. As a head coach, that's your job to manage the game, and I didn't do a good job of it."

Glennon lacks a signature moment in the fourth quarter, when he makes a play to complete a comeback or prevent one.

"I think coaches and quarterbacks are defined by wins, not yards, not stats," Schiano said. "We all know that when we get into it, he will (win). But again, until you do something, it's a belief. It's not a reality."

Schiano and the Bucs still have time to do something, to make a statement. How many games must they win for Schiano to be invited back as coach? Six? Seven? Eight?

"I truly don't go there," he said. "I don't because I can't control anything other than what I'm doing today. Then I go to bed exhausted and then get up and do it again. When things are really, really tough and when things are really, really good, you'd better have that same mentality.

"I'll say this: We're going to be a really good team in the future; really good."

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