Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For Schiano after Bucs' win, it's what's next?

TAMPA

For eight weeks, he was in torment. For eight weeks, the flames licked at his feet, and his team kept falling, and the world took turns calling him names. For eight weeks, his reputation took a beating.

And now that it had finally ceased, at least for the moment, Greg Schiano had an hour to celebrate.

One hour.

That is all that victory affords a football coach in the NFL. Schiano finally got around to winning a football game, and he had 60 minutes built in to remember all the big plays and all of the emotional swings that happened during it. In other words, he had time to watch one episode of American Horror Story, if only it didn't look so much like this year's game films.

An hour? As long as Schiano had waited for victory, he should have spent three days at Cozumel, fishing and sipping boat drinks around a bamboo umbrella. He should have been calling old coaches and giving Oscar-worthy speeches.

Ah, but the team's preparation for Sunday's game at Atlanta had begun already, and so Schiano had to cram all of his celebrating into an hour. He lingered a bit in his team's locker room, congratulating this player and that one. He had some PDQ chicken that had been delivered to the players. He went home for a short night of sleep.

All together now: Whee!

Yeah, that Schiano is a party dude, all right. If he had taken an hour and a half to enjoy the 22-19 win over the Dolphins on Monday, there might be photos of him on Facebook with a lampshade on his head.

"It was a good hour," Schiano said.

That said, there was a bit of a hop to Schiano's step Tuesday afternoon. His team had won one in a row, which, by the way, is tied for the 10th longest winning streak in the NFL. That's what this league is; there are only four teams that have at least a three-game winning streak.

"It feels better," Schiano said. "Everything feels better when you win.

"First, it's getting that win, right? As the losses mount, that one win gets harder and harder. I hope now our guys can go out and play and not feel that pressure. I know they said there was no pressure, but I think human nature puts that pressure on you."

Of course, the pressure doesn't stop with one win, either. And the unspoken truth is that one victory won't save anyone's job around One Buc. Everyone knows that, too.

Today, that's the question. With seven games to go, how many times does Schiano have to win to save his job? Two more times? Four more times? Seven more times?

Only the Glazer family can say, of course, and even those guys may want to see just how this season shakes out. What if there is another nosedive on the schedule? What if Mike Glennon leads an upset or two down the stretch? What if the second half is massively different than the first half?

Two more wins? That isn't enough. Two more victories mean the Bucs would finish 3-13, which would be worse than Raheem Morris in his final season. Around the NFL, the only coach to survive a three-win season in the past four years was Minnesota's Leslie Frazier, who kept his job despite going 3-13 in 2011. The five coaches who finished worse (all 2-14) were fired.

Three more wins? A 4-4 finish gets you a little more conversation, but it still feels like underachievement. A 4-4 finish means your chosen quarterback finished 4-8 on the season. Consider this: Over the past four years, 11 coaches have been fired after winning at least six games. Hey, it's a hard way to make a living.

Four more wins? That's certainly close. If the Bucs can go 5-3 in the second half, it's going to make people forgive a lot of the first half. The quarterback pouted his way out of town, and Doug Martin and Mike Williams and Carl Nicks were all hurt, and there was the MRSA infection scandal. The fact the Bucs hung in there will count for a lot.

Five more wins. That certainly brings Schiano back. If he can finish 6-10, the Bucs will resemble a team that finally gets it.

Now consider this: Of the Bucs' final seven opponents, one (New Orleans) is 7-2 and three (the Lions, Panthers and 49ers) are 6-3. Three teams (the Falcons, Bills and Rams) have losing records.

So how many wins are possible? Four? Maybe five?

It won't be good enough for the playoffs, but it might keep Schiano in chicken sandwiches.

We'll see.

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