As the trial of Greg Schiano resumes, the chairs of the jurors are all on the line. The courtroom is cool, 67.5 degrees, but soon it will be hot enough to broil steaks.
The charges against Schiano, the Bucs' coach, are many. He killed the season. He robbed the ticket-buyers. His team assaulted the senses.
Also, he has won four games.
So Schiano stands accused of being in over his head. He is the ringleader around here. He is the boss of bosses. Contrasting evidence aside, he is the mastermind.
Above all else, that's what coaching in the NFL is. It is a constant revisiting of the evidence. It is a long, grueling examination on the witness stand.
You? For now, you are the judge.
• • •
PROSECUTOR: Your honor, we intend to prove that the Bucs simply aren't good enough. Actually, they have proved that themselves. We're just here to point it out and giggle.
SCHIANO: Look, I'll be leading my own defense here …
PROSECUTOR: Now that you bring it up, that's one of the problems.
SCHIANO (glares): You have six minutes. That's about how much time I provide for my press conferences.
JUDGE: Coach Schiano, how do you plead?
SCHIANO: I plead two years. That's how much time I've had. Do you remember the team I inherited from Raheem Morris? With a mess that big, trust me, two years isn't nearly enough time to mop.
PROSECUTOR: Yet, that last team of Morris' won four games, and this team has won four games. So how much progress has been made?
SCHIANO: According to the record, not enough. I'll admit that. But do you really want to start over again with another head coach? Do the Glazers really want to pay two head coaches at the same time? Look, we had an ineffective quarterback, and we had MRSA, and we had a lot of injuries.
PROSECUTOR: Let me get this straight: Because this season blew up, you deserve another one?
SCHIANO: No, I'm saying that two years isn't enough time to fix a broken franchise. Check the stats: We've won 11 times in two years. In his first two years, Tom Landry won four games. Chuck Noll won six. Bill Walsh won eight. Bill Parcells won 12. Bill Belichick won 13. Sometimes it takes time.
PROSECUTOR: It's a different world these days. Coaches know coming in they don't get six years. Besides, the bad coaches want more time, too. Right? Raheem Morris. Leeman Bennett. Cam Cameron. Rod Rust. Put it this way: If nine wins in a season wasn't enough for Tony Dungy to keep his job and nine wasn't enough for Jon Gruden, why is four enough for you? Forget about this season for a second. Tell me this: How much better would this team be in another year? Would it challenge for the playoffs? Because otherwise, what's the point?
SCHIANO: With a couple of more pieces, our defense can be in the top 10. Last year, with Doug Martin and Mike Williams, the offense was in the top 10. I see no reason we can't win six, maybe even seven, games.
PROSECUTOR: Here's a reason: the other teams.
SCHIANO: That's not fair.
PROSECUTOR: I have two tickets on the 40. Do you want to lecture me about unfair? Here's how bad it is: Even Nick Carter, the former Backstreet Boy, wants you fired.
SCHIANO: Who? I listen to Springsteen. Is there any word from the Boss?
PROSECUTOR: Yeah. He's singing about My City of Ruins. I'm not sure, but I think the lyrics are about Tampa and the Bucs.
SCHIANO: Hey, this team never quit. It never gave in. I never lost the locker room.
PROSECUTOR: So you want credit for your players trying really, really hard and finishing second most weeks?
SCHIANO: It beats surrender. Besides, we have Mike Glennon, which means we finally have a chance at quarterback. I believe in this kid. Give him more weapons around him and he'll be fine.
PROSECUTOR: I'm sorry, but Glennon seems to be a moving target. He's not good enough to allow this team to win, but he's going to be good enough to allow next year's to do so? Do you really think Glennon is special?
SCHIANO: Well, he's won four of his last seven. For a kid who didn't even go to Rutgers, I like him a lot.
PROSECUTOR: Your honor, the state would like to call Josh Freeman to the stand.
FREEMAN: Hi. I'd just like to say that Schiano was right about me. Oh, and let me know if you're interested in me in free agency.
PROSECUTOR: I'll admit this. Compared to the first half of the season, the second feels like flying. But you don't get a pass for starting 0-8. Those games count, too. Blowing the Jets game, the Saints game, the Cardinals game, that counts, too. Throw it all together and this was one of the worst 10 seasons in the history of the Bucs. And remember, there was an 0-14 and a couple of Leeman Bennett teams stuck in there, too. And as far as Freeman is concerned, if he was such a mess as a quarterback, why didn't you do something about the position before the season?
SCHIANO: Well, we assigned a guy to wake him before the second quarter began, but that didn't work, either. Besides, you can't add everyone. We did pick up Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson.
PROSECUTOR: Yeah, but your defense is still kind of mediocre. You didn't add a pass rusher or a tight end, and you whiffed badly when you tried to bring in a third receiver. So why should anyone believe you'll get it right next time?
SCHIANO: Hey, we know what the problems are. I think we should get one more chance. And maybe one after that. After all, what could go wrong?
PROSECUTOR: This. More of this.