The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their seventh straight game last Thursday, falling 31-13 to division rival Carolina. It’s an organization that has won only once in its last 13 attempts and currently stands 7-16 under second year head coach Greg Schiano. Bucs fans were all too eager to escort previous head coach Raheem Morris out the door after finishing his last 23 games with an 8-15 record. That’s right, for all the dysfunction and disorganized appearance of Morris, Tampa Bay was actually one game better than the current regime over its last 23. Things don’t get any better in the short term with a trip to the NFC’s current juggernaut Seattle on schedule for this Sunday.
A Sinking Ship
This is clearly a franchise in disarray. Whether lack of talent, lack of leadership, or just plain lack of luck, the Buccaneers are on a direct path to a top 5 draft choice in 2014. NFL history has shown that those head coaches unable to get their clubs to the playoffs in their first 3 seasons are usually not around for a fourth try. But folks in Tampa aren’t even sure they want to give Schiano a third. Last week a local radio station, 102.5 “The Bone”, paid for a billboard in North Tampa stating bluntly “Fire Schiano”.
It seems almost weekly there’s a drama to deal with at One Buccaneer Place; staff infections, quarterback conundrums, coaching style controversies, and the albatross of losing. This can drain the very life out of any organization and ultimately it’s the responsibility of LEADERSHIP to “right the boat” or in this case the “listing ship” of the Buccaneers. That responsibility is placed upon ownership, the general manager, and the head coach. The working relationship between the trilogy will ultimately determine whether or not things will turn around in Tampa Bay.
The Buck Stops Here
It’s somewhat amusing that we demand accountability more out or our professional football head coaches than we do our own political leadership, and will quickly call for the “heads” at the top when expected results aren’t met. Most in the game will present a stiff upper lip and tell you that it comes with the territory. Schiano himself has publicly stated that he’s “not bothered” by the all the cries for his job.
But remember this – a football organization is made up of many more people than just the head coach. There are assistant coaches, trainers, operational staff, scouts, and front office personnel that all play a pivotal role in the outcome of an NFL club. Most, if not the majority of these people work long and hard to support the overall efforts and mission of the head coach. They’re job is to do everything they can to ensure the team is well stocked with talented players, has the best supporting resources both on and off the field, and keeps an eye on the short and long term goals of the organization. Yes, their efforts are tied to the outcome of the club, and yet many times are totally independent of the competency of club leadership.
Firing a team’s general manager or head coach might placate the fans and media for the moment, but the ripple effects go much further than just the executive’s corner office. Most new regimes will bring in their own support staff and personnel to run the various departments of football operations. That means not only is the head coach fired, but usually a dozen or so assistant coaches and their families. Kids are pulled out of schools, wives leave their jobs, and many times young support staff are back out searching for another opportunity.
It comes with job and though many understand that, it’s another thing to actually experience it. Being fired for no reason of your own but rather your association with a member of the organization that is not doing their part is a difficult situation to come to grips with.
It Happens All The Time
A good friend of mine with the Denver Broncos had a twenty plus year career in the NFL that he’d built from the ground up (under 3 different head coaches) in the video operations department. “Video” is an area of football operations that is the “life blood” of a club’s day to day work; filming practice, editing footage, building cutups, distributing to the various users, understanding the technology involved, working with both coaching and the personnel department, providing players with their own requested resources. This long-time loyal employee of the Broncos had seen it all and represented the club at the local and league levels with the utmost professionalism.
Along comes Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots with his own thoughts of how things should operate in “Video”. Gone . . . over 20 years of work is gone for a replacement employee that ultimately was forced to leave in the wake of Spygate 2. McDaniels himself would be fired less than two full seasons into his first head coaching contract.
My point? Yes, the head coach should be held accountable for the on the field futility of any NFL team. But as fans, keep in mind that the sign erected to “Fire Schiano” doesn’t just effect the head coach himself, but dozens of others as well. That “fire” can spread quickly throughout the entire building.