The ax has come down on Josh Freeman. Unless Greg Schiano gets a quick personality transplant, his head is next to go in Tampa Bay.
That could actually be best for everyone. Schiano could go back to college, where his rigid approach might find an audience. The Bucs could find a coach who realizes there’s a time and place to be a hard nose.
That time isn’t every waking second, and that place isn’t the NFL.
The mere notion upsets millions of hard-working types who say, “For the money they make, pros should take crap from the coach. And if they don’t like it, they can just drop and do 100 one-armed pushups.”
That’s simply not how it works. Pros don’t mind being bossed around, as long as they think the boss has a clue. If not, they can do what college players can’t: tune out.
Right now, Schiano opens his mouth and players hear only “BZZZZZ!” It doesn’t help his credibility when he says, “Josh is our starter.”
The Bucs are winless and Freeman’s been terrible, so you can’t fault Schiano for the move. You can fault him for how Freeman’s gotten increasingly terrible since the coaching staff arrived.
Part of that is undoubtedly on Freeman. But whether he was overrated from the start or undisciplined or whatever, his relationship with Schiano was terminally ill. As bad as that has become — and Freeman wants out, according to FOX Sports sources — the real problem is nobody in uniform is connecting with Schiano.
It’s never good when players hold a private meeting and one of the topics is whether the coach rigged the vote for team captain so his quarterback would get jobbed. The other hot topic was debating whether Schiano should dress as Sgt. Hulka or Bobby Knight for Halloween.
All this was predictable. The Bucs’ last coach, Raheem Morris, was a smiley 35-year-old who let kids run amok. That was a disaster, so Tampa Bay did the usual 180 and brought in a jut-jawed micromanager.
“Toes on the line!” Schiano screamed at his first practice.
He wanted players to line up perfectly, like a Marine drill platoon. Schiano exuded “My Way or the Highway.” There was no need for diplomacy, even with his peers.
Schiano’s big splash came last September on the final play against the Giants. The game was lost, and NFL decorum called for Eli Manning to take a knee while everybody else stood up and waited for time to expire. The Bucs staged an all-out rush.
“You don’t do that at this level,” an irate Tom Coughlin said.
It made Schiano a cult hero in Tampa Bay, but the tough-guy energy petered out. The Bucs lost five of their last six games. After a 41-0 embarrassment in New Orleans, one anonymous player wondered, “Can we send these coaches back to college?”
He’s going to get his wish. Schiano had an offseason to reflect on last year and temper his approach. If he did look at his reflection, he liked what he saw. It was more of the same, so much that the players called that meeting.
Dashon Goldson, a respected veteran, took the complaints to Schiano. The coach thanked him for the input, and then he asked the players to trust him. He had a plan and it would lead to success.
The team was back in full pads the next day. So much for input.
That triggered more rumors of discontent from players like Darrelle Revis. It’d be easier to take if they thought Schiano’s plan would work. They see a guy who was 68-67 in 11 seasons at Rutgers. And he’s yelling at them?
It’s not as if the disciplinarians can’t succeed. Vince Lombardi would have made a great drill sergeant. But good coaches learn how to relate to their players.
Coughlin would fine players for not being five minutes early for meetings. Players were ready to mutiny during his first year in New York. Coughlin was lucky enough to have Kurt Warner around.
The quarterback saw a coach with great potential and character, but little sense of diplomacy. It wasn’t enough to yell at players to be early or else. Warner said they needed to be told why being early was so important.
Coughlin softened up, and the rest is Super Bowl history. It’s hard to see that happening in Tampa Bay.
You could argue that the Bucs are a late-hit penalty and a missed field goal from being 2-1. But Sunday’s 23-3 loss at New England was a better gauge.
Tampa Bay has the second-worst offense in the NFL. It has 23 penalties in three games. That’s not exactly toeing the line.
And now it has a rookie quarterback. Glennon needs to transform into Andrew Luck for the Bucs to match last year’s 7-9 record. And Schiano will need to change a lot of attitudes in a hurry, including his own.