There is plenty of blame to go around after the Bucs lost their season opener to the Jets. So since we're pointing fingers, let's point the first one at coach Greg Schiano and his staff. • See, whenever you lose in the NFL on Sunday, you spend Monday trying to figure out how. • Sometimes you lose because you aren't as good as the other team. The Bucs will play plenty of games this season against teams better than they are. Sunday's game was not one of them. • Sometimes you lose because the other team plays way over its head. While the dysfunctional Jets and their rookie quarterback looked better than expected, they didn't play the game of their lives. • And, finally, there's one other reason you lose, the most disturbing way of all: because you weren't ready to play. • That's what happened to the Bucs on Sunday.
Clearly, the Bucs don't have a Super Bowl roster. Their quarterback is the epitome of mediocre. Their offensive line is full of holes. Their defense still hasn't proven it can stop the forward pass.
But the Bucs lost 18-17 Sunday, and they lost because they weren't prepared.
And whose fault is that? The coaches, starting with the big man himself.
Schiano was asked Monday if his team was prepared, and he said it was, although he did add, "We made too many mistakes, for sure."
They committed 13 penalties totaling more than 100 yards, including a 15-yard personal foul that set up the winning field goal.
They turned the ball over twice, including a football follies bad snap out of the end zone when the quarterback wasn't looking. That resulted in a safety, which just happened to be the difference in the game.
And the most glaring example of a team completely out of sorts? How about the very first drive of the season?
Let me repeat: The first drive, the one you have been getting ready for since last season ended.
After four plays from scrimmage, the Bucs were forced to call a timeout because quarterback Josh Freeman's helmet communicator went on the fritz.
Coming out of the timeout, when you assume the Bucs had gotten their act together, they were so discombobulated they were flagged for not one but two delay-of-game penalties. Then came a sack. Then came a false start penalty. Then, on third and 35, they completed a pass for a 2-yard gain.
Who was in charge of scripting that series, Moe, Curly or Larry?
Does that sound like a team ready to play? Does that sound like a team that is well coached and able to handle adversity?
I realize that Schiano can't go out there for his players. He can't complete passes that Freeman should complete. He can't block or rush the passer or cover anyone. But what about the things he and his staff can control?
"Certainly, I'm not okay with the way our team played because we lost a game with 13 penalties," Schiano said. "So I'm not okay with the way we played. Did it look sloppy? Yeah, some parts of it looked sloppy."
Schiano said there were good parts, and "a lot of good stuff" to build on, but a lot to fix, too.
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"The frustrating thing to me," he said, "is we shouldn't have to fix them."
He's exactly right. The Bucs made errors that should have been corrected long before Sunday, and they might have been if a little more attention had been paid to the preseason. Again, that's on Schiano.
The Bucs spent all of the preseason trying to keep everyone healthy and acting as if everything would be fine as soon as the regular season started.
Well, the regular season started and everything isn't fine. It's out of synch. It's rusty. Even guard Davin Joseph, a team captain, admitted problems with communication stem from the preseason, adding, "I don't think we did enough to be ready for it."
Not ready. Aren't the coaches in charge of that?
I'm not saying Schiano is in over his head. I'm not saying he can't coach at this level. I'm not saying he doesn't work hard. He has been given so-so talent and, thus far, has a so-so 7-10 record as Tampa Bay's coach.
But the knock on him at Rutgers was that he wasn't a great game manager, and we've seen little in his first 17 games as Bucs coach to refute that.
The problem now is the Bucs are about to face two teams — Saints and Patriots — who are better than they are.
The only way to beat those teams is to be better prepared than them. After watching Sunday's game, I'm not sure that is possible.