The season is beyond saving. The fans are beyond keeping. The Tampa Bay Bucs franchise, in its ugliest season, is beyond redemption.
So when do you fire Greg Schiano?
He cannot be saved, and he should no longer be tolerated. At 0-7, Schiano has never looked more bewildered. Every week, his team looks worse. Every game, it seems more helpless. The oddsmakers say no one will go 0-16, but for the death of them, the Bucs have the look.
They cannot play offense. They cannot play defense. They are a snarl of empty promises about not quitting, and assurances that tomorrow will be better, and guarantees that the coaches will figure it out very soon. And every time out, the stain gets deeper on a franchise.
He has to go, either today or at the end of the season. The unrelenting misery of this season has to stop. Either that, or the Bucs risk every fan in the stands.
How long do the Glazers put up with two cents worth of production on the dollar? This time, the Bucs were playing in a prime-time game at home against a team they beat twice last year.
And they lost 31-13.
Hey, it's what they do.
By now, there is no way that Schiano coaches himself out of the quicksand. He is up to his eyelids in penalties, and a defensive line that cannot rush the passer is strapped to his ankle, and a rookie quarterback is running his huddle. Try as he might, a coach cannot tough guy his way out of this.
Consider the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The fans, bored at watching their team be trampled, came up with a new chant.
Frankly, you would have to say, it had a ring to it.
Oh-and-seven? With some franchises, that happens once, maybe twice. Here, it has happened six times. Now, it has happened twice in four years. No, it isn't good for a coach, or for a general manager, or for an owner.
Yeah, maybe the Bucs manage to win one game, and maybe they even win two. But does that really change things? There is no escape from the wretchedness this team has established. Sooner or later, it is bound to claim Schiano's job.
To be honest, I've never really cared for the idea of an interim coach. Usually, that only confuses the issue for the ensuing season. It's how Richard Williamson ends up a head coach in Tampa Bay, or Romeo Crennel in Kansas City. It often leads to replacing mediocrity with mediocrity. I don't see next year's Bucs coach on this year's staff, either.
But this time around, there would be some advantages to calling, say, Dave Wannstedt aside and telling him he's starting a week from Sunday. This season has been so unsightly, so unpleasant, that an immediate sense of relief would come with a coaching change. With Schiano, there is always tension in the air. The entire franchise is in a constant bad mood, and you can smell the desperation as far as Orlando.
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These days, how can anyone argue that Schiano should be retained? Or, for that matter, retrained? Any defense of Schiano comes down to one thing: money. The Glazers won't want to pay both Schiano and Schiano's successor at the same time.
But that's the risk that ownership took when it hired a college coach who had been 68-67 in the Big East. Again, they didn't have to pull him off a trophy stand to get him to sign a contract. There was always a chance that Schiano would be in over his head.
I'll say this: Schiano's Bucs aren't very good. This is supposed to be an improved defensive team, but it has given up 30 points or more in three straight games. Thursday night, it gave up a 70-yard drive to the Panthers on their first possession and an 80-yarder on the second. As quick as that, it was over.
As for the Bucs offense? Sheesh. For 57 minutes, this team had two field goals. How are you going to win with that?
Yes, I know quarterback Mike Glennon is a rookie. But didn't Schiano name that tune when he ran Josh Freeman out of town?
Here's a question: If the Bucs really didn't think that much of Freeman after last season, why didn't they try harder to get another option during the offseason? And if the Bucs really didn't feel good about their quarterback (which seems obvious these days), then why throw millions at Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson?
In the end, and it will come sooner or later, Schiano will be known as a guy who was too tough for his times. In a league where coaches pat backs, he tried to come in as a balled fist. Hey, no one is saying he had to be buddy-buddy, the way Raheem Morris was. But you can't glare like you're about to take someone's lunch money, either.
If it had worked, fine. As former coach Tony Dungy used to say, there are a lot of ways to be successful as a coach.
As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to be unsuccessful, too.
So far, we have seen seven of them.
Now? Or later?