TAMPA, Fla. — An NFL coach wears many hats above his headset: Leader, tactician, politician, salesman. Greg Schiano is running out of time with the last job description, natives around Tampa Bay wondering if they’ve been pitched silver only to receive tin foil.
“I can imagine how frustrated they are, absolutely,” Schiano said Monday, a day after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped to 0-5 with a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. “I can guarantee you that they’re not more frustrated than I am — no matter how fervent a fan they are. But that doesn’t make it OK. I understand we’re disappointing a lot of people.”
The disappointment has entered a danger zone, otherwise known as Raheem Morris Territory. These bumbling Bucs have lost 10 of their past 11 games under Schiano, dating back to Week 12 of last season. Morris, Tampa Bay’s laissez-faire leader before Schiano stopped chopping wood at Rutgers, lost 10 consecutive games in 2011 before he was jettisoned from RayJay.
Monday, during his day-after postmortem, Schiano wore an appropriate shirt color — black — and offered a plea for patience. If fans can hang in there, he said, this is going to get good. If they can’t, he said, this will still get good … and the bandwagon has seats for converts down the line.
“I’m not being smart,” he said, “I mean that.”
No doubt he does. But he needs help bailing water from this ship.
Anyone have a life vest?
Morris’ last year took a turn into the Bermuda Triangle. There was a 48-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers … a 37-9 loss to the Houston Texans … a 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers … a 41-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars … a 48-16 loss to the Panthers … a 45-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Different captain, same bottom line. There’s no telling where Schiano will steer this season. His defense looks too good to allow Morris Era embarrassments, but the first five games of this year, which began with visions of contending in the NFC South, have offered little hope for a pivot into something more positive.
Scoring offense: 12.8 points per game (No. 31 in the league).
Yards: 290 per game (No. 31).
Passing yards: 190.8 per game (No. 32).
Good news for Schiano: There’s little precedent for a quick hook for Bucs coaches, patience usually a virtue in Tampa Bay. Morris lasted three seasons, Sam Wyche four. Leeman Bennett was fired following the 1986 season after going 4-28, and Richard Williamson was dismissed following the 1991 season after going 4-15.
Schiano’s record: 7-14.
“This is a time when people are going to start questioning each other, start questioning the offense and defense and coaches and players,” Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward said. “That’s one thing we can’t do.”
Another thing they can’t do: Allow this spiral to swallow the rest of the schedule.
Well, good luck there. Take a look at the lineup ahead and pick out a victory: The Atlanta Falcons twice, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions.
That’s all before Thanksgiving.
So far, too much famine, not enough feast.
“I think it’s right there,” Bucs tight end Tim Wright said. “We’re not losing games by 20 points or whatever. It’s very close. It’s just something that we’ve got to click on to get that 5 percent to get that extra over-the-hump to get it done.”
But that hump looks 0-5-large now, the hill growing with each loss. Sunday, there was another letdown. Monday, a plea for patience, a promise for the future.
Whether Schiano can deliver on his sale remains in doubt.
“At the end of the game, I’m disappointed just like they are,” he said of the fans. “I understand anything and everything.”