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Losses lead to weird stuff for Bucs

Blocker needed: From, left, the Jets’ Kenrick Ellis, Calvin Pace and Sheldon Richardson wrap up Doug Martin, who struggles in one-back sets.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Blocker needed: From, left, the Jets’ Kenrick Ellis, Calvin Pace and Sheldon Richardson wrap up Doug Martin, who struggles in one-back sets.

TAMPA

Sam Wyche had his team practice halftime and wanted them to wear all orange. Players staged a walkout of a film session on Richard Williamson. GM Rich McKay quit and took the same job with the division rival Falcons the week they played in Tampa. First-year offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was fired 10 days before the regular season when he couldn't spit out the plays.

There has been no shortage of weird stuff at One Buc Place.

But usually, it occurs before a team starts circling the drain, not the wagons.

Where is the Hard Knocks crew when you need it?

Last week's he-said he-said between coach Greg Schiano and QB Josh Freeman seemed about as authentic as FieldTurf.

Freeman is suddenly always getting penalized for not watching the clock. He can't wake up in time for the team photo. He can't avoid two delay of game penalties against the Jets.

When Freeman is not voted an offensive captain by teammates, Schiano has to answer questions about if he rigged the results. Why? Because Schiano has his fingers deep into just about everything in the organization, it almost seems possible. There is a players-only meeting before the season even kicks off.

The truth is the shelf life for a college coach making the jump to the NFL is similar to milk, especially when winning doesn't happen fast enough and he starts to resemble the Great Santini.

Schiano inherited a mess and did a good job changing the culture of the football side of the building.

Yes, he went 7-9 and the Bucs were competitive in 15 of 16 games in his first season. But given the rare — for the Bucs, anyway — investment in free agents, winning needs to take place quickly. Every team in the league is competitive; even the bad ones.

Remember, the Bucs lost five of their final six games in 2012, the lone victory coming at Atlanta on the final day of the regular season against a playoff-bound team that had nothing to play for. With last week's 18-17 loss to the Jets, they now have lost six of seven.

You can't blame Schiano for wanting to be in total control. But on the other side of every wall at One Buc, there is grumbling about it. He sets all of the schedules — from practices to news conferences — but nobody gets them until early evening or late at night. Even the chef must be annoyed because he doesn't know when to start cooking the chicken.

Schiano controls the defense. He tinkers with play-calling on offense. He's like the gatekeeper with the only set of keys to every door.

And GM Mark Dominik does not get a gold star for watching this unravel from the sideline.

It's hard to imagine Schiano and Freeman with a future together. If the Bucs lose to the Saints today and at New England next week, look for Schiano to pull the rip cord on his starting quarterback.

Rookie Mike Glennon might not produce wins. But if he shows signs of progress, it could buy Schiano time. Like Freeman, Schiano had better start paying attention to the clock.

Welcome back: FB Erik Lorig will return after missing last week with a calf injury.

The Bucs had no fullback against the Jets. And tight ends Luke Stocker and Nate Byham were so ineffective as lead blockers, they were reduced to one-back sets. That's not when RB Doug Martin is at his best.

"Sometimes, you are limited in your choices," Schiano said. "Sometimes, you have to make a bet early in the week: 'Is a guy going to be able to make it or not?'

"The thing you always have to have is contingency plans, and you back off on a little of this and you do more of that. I think that's what we had to do last week."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Losses lead to weird stuff for Bucs 09/14/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 14, 2013 10:19pm]
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