Back to reality for Buccaneers, Schiano

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- To all those people who like to blame coach Greg Schiano for everything that goes wrong with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, get in line.

Schiano's going first this time, and his critique is harsh but appropriate. After Sunday’s 27-6 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, Schiano repeatedly pointed the finger straight at himself.

"We didn't do enough to help them as coaches and we didn't execute well enough on the field," Schiano said.

Yes, the three-week dynasty that was the Bucs is over. The criticism of Schiano and speculation about his job security are flowing again, and they should be. After winning their previous three games, the Bucs took about six steps back with their worst performance of the season.

"This is a sick feeling going three in a row and then coming here and not playing your best football," left tackle Donald Penn said.

All the momentum that came with the wins is gone now. Give plenty of credit to Carolina, which won its eighth straight and continued to look like one of the league's best teams. But this was as much about the Bucs as it was about the Panthers.

The running game never got going, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had his worst game and the defense couldn't stop Cam Newton on the ground or through the air.

Who's to blame?

"It just didn't feel like we gave them enough good opportunities," Schiano said. "I look at some of the stuff and it's on me. We've got to figure a way to put them in better situations. It's easy to say play calling -- when play calls work, they're great. When they don't, they're not. I just mean, overall, why did we show up today and not perform the way we're capable of? All the reasons, guys missing ... that's the way it's been. It's no different than it's been. We needed to play better. I did not see it coming. I thought we had an excellent week of practice."

Schiano even blamed himself for his team's poor tackling.

"We didn't tackle," Schiano said. "That wasn't the way we play defense. We didn't tackle, and I don't know why. That's another reason that, somehow as the head coach, I didn't get us to tackle the way that we’re capable of."

It's admirable that Schiano is taking the blame for everything. Ultimately, the head coach has to take the blame when things don't go well, and it really doesn't matter if that's fair. I'm not saying that taking the blame rings hollow after a while. But, if you got your hopes up after three big Sundays in November, the reality is that the calendar has turned to December. That's the month of reality in the NFL.

Now that the three-week joyride is over, Schiano may be running short on time. Let's face the facts. The Bucs are 3-9 after going 7-9 last season.

There was a time when an NFL coach was reasonably certain to get three years to show what he could do. But those days are gone because owners no longer can afford to wait to win. Schiano isn't even done with his second season, but he already is down to crunch time.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, likes a lot of things about Schiano (starting with the fact he cleaned up a locker room that was a laughingstock under his predecessor, Raheem Morris). But the Glazers also like to win, and they don't like to be embarrassed.

That's why Schiano is at a critical moment in his tenure. There are four games left in the season and he can't afford for the rest of them to go the way the Carolina contest did.

"We just didn't play well today," Schiano said. "That's all I know. When you live in the one-game-season mode like we do, you have to [play well]. It is really hard to win an NFL football game. If you put everything into it and it doesn't work, then you've got to evaluate what you did. Did you not do the right things? Did you not give your guys the best chance to win?"

I'm not saying Schiano has to run the table to keep his job, although that certainly would help. But I think he needs to finish on some sort of upswing, something like winning three out of the last four.

If he doesn't finish strong and generate some hope for the future, the fans aren't going to be the only ones blaming Schiano. And Schiano's not going to be the only one blaming Schiano.

There are four games left and the Glazers need to use them to evaluate everything. When it comes right down to it, the opinions of the Glazers are the only ones that really matter.

If Schiano's postgame critique ends up being similar in three or four of these remaining games, it's pretty obvious the Glazers will end up agreeing with their coach.