TAMPA — Even more than two years ago, when Greg Schiano first discussed with P.J. Fleck a position on the Rutgers coaching staff, the current Bucs coach knew the young assistant might one day become a head coach.
"When you hire good coaches, you know that's part and parcel, especially if they have aspirations to be a head coach," Schiano said "I knew from the day I interviewed P.J. back then that that's what his ultimate goal was. And that's good."
Fleck, the Bucs' receivers coach, got his first chance this week when he was hired Monday as Western Michigan's head coach. He'll remain with the Bucs for their final two games, but he's being pulled in several directions by the new job and a new daughter, born Monday.
Offensive assistant Ben McDaniels, the brother of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, works alongside Fleck and will pick up the slack.
"Together we're not going to miss a beat," Schiano said.
Schiano listed the qualities he believes will make Fleck, 32, a former standout receiver at Northern Illinois and a two-year member of the 49ers, a good head coach:
"I think he has very strong beliefs. He's very sure of himself. … At one point, I was the youngest head coach in the country (at Rutgers). Hey, you don't have experience. You just do what you think is right, and if it's wrong, you fix it, and you keep moving. But the one thing he has is great energy, he's got great focus and strong beliefs.
"If you have that, 80 percent of leadership is knowing where you're going."
Said WR Tiquan Underwood of Fleck: "We've (developed) a relationship. He's helped me grow as a person and as a player. Those guys at Western Michigan are lucky to have him."
TOPIC DU JOUR: The struggles of QB Josh Freeman continue to be a common topic of discussion at One Buc Place, with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan addressing it Wednesday in his weekly news conference.
Like Schiano, Sullivan had made it a point to not overreact in the wake of Freeman's four-interception performance in the 41-0 loss to the Saints on Sunday and his slump in the past three games.
For Sullivan, the focus is on Freeman's performance over the course of the season.
"There are so many things that we need to improve, that we took a few steps back on, that go well beyond Josh or any individual player," he said.
DOUBLING UP: DE Michael Bennett is trying to become the first Tampa Bay player to reach double digits in sacks since Simeon Rice in 2005.
Bennett enters Sunday's game against the Rams with nine sacks, the most since Rice's 14 in 2005.
With Bennett entering free agency this offseason, reaching double digits would look nice on the resume, but he would settle for a much-needed victory.
"Getting double digits in sacks, that's my job," Bennett said. "I would like to get double digits. But winning is the most important thing. Everybody puts a big emphasis on me getting sacks. But I would rather win the game."
INJURY REPORT: TE Luke Stocker (head/nose) and DE Aaron Morgan (shoulder) were limited in practice.