TAMPA — Nationally, Tampa Bay's sports fans don't have the surly, hot-tempered reputation associated with their peers in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano may be changing that.
During Thursday night's 31-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, which dropped the Buccaneers to 0-7, the hometown faithful embraced the more traditional methods of expressing displeasure with a head coach — the lusty boos, the chants demanding the coach get fired, the wearing of brown paper bags on heads in a universally recognized symbol of shame — and added a new one: the comparing of the coach to a bacterial infection.
"SCHIANO IS THE MRSA" read one sign. "SCHIANO IS WORSE THAN MRSA," read a paper bag worn by another. While differing in degrees of grammatical correctness, the signs comparing Schiano to the illness that has afflicted three of his players during this train wreck of a season, broadcast on national television, were the latest signals of a groundswell of fury building across the region toward Schiano.
Local radio station 102.5 The Bone rented 19 jumbo-sized digital billboards across the area this week to display this message, in flames: "Fire Schiano."
"The 'Fire Schiano' billboard is simply a reflection of the Tampa Bay community's opinion of the Buccaneers' head coach," Michael Sharkey, the WHPT program director, wrote in a statement. "Our listeners have voiced their opinion that they are tired of a team that, on paper, should have a winning record."
Accompanying the striking displays were the words of the station's own Bubba The Love Sponge, who has aired a vulgarity-laced parody song, dubbed Schiano Man, in recent days on his morning show.
"Coach Schiano, we're sorry, my friend, but we don't believe your hype anymore," Bubba said.
The hate Schiano movement kept football writers busy nationwide and dominated the Twitter-sphere Friday. Among the tweets suitable for print was this, from Tampa's Michele Money-Carson: "I hear Schiano is dressing up as a football coach for Halloween . . . ooooh scary!" And this, from Marshall Bradway: "Doesn't Greg Schiano know that the militaristic style of coaching is only successful if you're a proven winner?" And this, from Joseph Hays: "Greg Schiano for a pumpkin spice latte. The problem would be getting someone to agree to it." Many others tweeted just to ask if Schiano been fired. The apparent popularity of the question had an impact."
Typing Schiano's name into the Google search engine Friday brought, as the second suggested entry, "Greg Schiano fired." (The third suggested entry, for those of you who think all this talk of a man losing his job is in poor taste, was "Greg Schiano salary." It's about $3 million, according to published reports.)
Among fans at the Press Box sports bar in Tampa on Friday afternoon, the message was much the same.
"Fire him!" was the instant reply from Marty Saint, who donned a Tampa Bay Rays cap as he tended bar. "Fire him and fire the entire coaching staff."
But among those calling for Schiano's head, some voices were more tempered.
"I don't think firing the head coach is the right move," said Kelly Cochran, 46, who sat at the bar. He wondered if perhaps the groundswell of fury toward Schiano isn't really a groundswell after all, but just a bunch of media outlets writing and talking about what they perceive to be a groundswell.
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"I think we've done some good things on the field," he said. "He's kind of a hard coach and a lot of players are not going to like that, but I haven't heard any grumbling from the locker room. All the grumbling I've heard has been from the press box."
Will Hobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400. Dan Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3386.