The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their best football game of the season Sunday.
Naturally, they still lost. Even die-hard Bucs fans could see this one coming from 3,000 miles away.
The Bucs lost 27-24 in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks. And this wasn’t anything close to a moral victory. Instead, it was a morale loss. The Bucs are 0-8 and this one was far worse than the previous seven put together.
As the Bucs fly back across the continent Sunday night, do you think morale could be any lower?
I don’t. The Bucs led 21-0 at one point in the first half and 24-7 early in the third quarter. They could have (temporarily) silenced all of their critics by beating one of the NFL’s best teams in one of the league’s toughest road stadiums. Fans even would have backed off coach Greg Schiano -- until his next loss.
But the Bucs blew that big lead in disastrous fashion and you have to wonder if ownership is thinking about replacing Schiano with an interim coach.
Perhaps you’ve noted that I’ve yet to call for Schiano’s firing. My logic has been two-fold. First, going with an interim coach never solves anything. Second, the general rule of thumb is that you don’t pull the plug until the players stop playing hard for the coach.
The effort still was there Sunday and that’s something that should be considered. But I’m starting to wonder if the Glazer family, which owns the team, might go ahead and fire Schiano at the midpoint of his second NFL season.
It wouldn’t even be a small surprise at this point. Schiano has lost 13 of his past 14 games. Those are the kind of embarrassing numbers that got predecessor Raheem Morris fired. And, before you go saying the Glazers will stick with Schiano because he has three years remaining on his contract, think about something else.
The Glazers don’t like losing money. But, more importantly, they care deeply about how they and the Bucs are perceived. More than anything, the Glazers hate to be embarrassed.
Schiano was brought in to do two things. First, he was supposed to change the culture of a locker room that had run amok under Morris. He accomplished that by getting rid of the likes of Aqib Talib, Kellen Winslow and LeGarrette Blount. Give Schiano credit for filling the locker room with Boy Scouts (and former Rutgers players).
But the other thing Schiano was hired to do was win. He clearly hasn’t done that. Just like he did in some early-season close losses, Schiano got conservative against Seattle. His staff also didn’t seem to make any successful halftime adjustments.
Could things really get worse if the Bucs fired Schiano and elevated special teams coach Dave Wannstedt to interim coach? Probably not. But things probably couldn’t get much worse.
The Bucs hit their lowest point in Seattle. They squandered a chance for Schiano to say, “Hey, look at what my system can do if it’s run right."
But that didn’t happen and the Glazers might be at a point where they need to make a big choice. Remember what I said about them not liking being embarrassed. I can’t emphasize that enough.
The next game on the schedule is a Monday night contest (Nov. 11) against the Miami Dolphins. It will be on national television in a sold-out stadium that rarely sells out.
The Glazers have to decide what’s worse -- going the interim route or run the risk of letting a national audience see Schiano get booed out of Raymond James Stadium.