NFC South: Mark Dominik

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik’s tenure did not include a playoff berth. But, in hindsight, Dominik scored a major victory in one regard.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bucs have the least "dead money" in the league at $901,763. Dead money is salary cap space taken up by players no longer on the roster. Although the Bucs have significant turnover this offseason, it hasn’t resulted in a lot of dead money.

No other team is close to the Bucs in dead money. The Indianapolis Colts are the closest at $1.8 million. The Dallas Cowboys lead the league with $28.7 million in dead money.

The bulk of Tampa Bay’s dead money comes from one player -- tackle Donald Penn, who was released and counts $667,000 toward the cap. The Bucs, who are $13 million under the cap, are in good shape largely due to the way Dominik structured contracts. He rarely gave out signing bonuses that are prorated over the life of a contract.

Instead, Dominik preferred to pay high salaries on the front end of contracts. That eliminated a lot of dead money when the Bucs did part ways with players.

But this tactic now has become more than a Dominik trick. It’s smart business and new general manager Jason Licht followed a path similar to what Dominik did with the contracts the Bucs have given this offseason.
Austin Seferian-JenkinsOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesThe Bucs began their Day 2 of the draft by taking Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has repeatedly talked about how his year off from coaching gave him new perspective. Apparently, that's no exaggeration.

Back in his days with the Chicago Bears, Smith was known as a coach who was focused almost solely on defense, often to the detriment of his offense and the bottom line. But Smith's Tampa Bay tenure is off to an offensive start.

A day after taking wide receiver Mike Evans with a first-round pick, the Bucs selected University of Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round (38th overall). They followed that up by taking West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round (69th overall).

[+] EnlargeCharles Sims
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Bucs took West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round.
It might appear as if offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was calling the shots in the draft room, but Smith has final say over personnel matters and he has signed off on three offensive players so far.

"We had a plan and that was to get great football players," general manager Jason Licht said. "It wasn't necessarily we're just going to address the offense, but it just so happened the way it fell, I've always talked about having the best player available versus need and where they converge."

They converged on offense, largely because that side of the ball was a weakness for the Bucs last season. That helped cost coach Greg Schiano and GM Mark Dominik their jobs and brought Smith and Licht to town.

The selection of Evans was no surprise at all. The addition of Seferian-Jenkins addressed a very underrated need. The Bucs had a stockpile of tight ends already, but none of them stood out. Seferian-Jenkins will likely get a chance to start right away.

"We didn't go into the draft thinking we had to get a tight end," Licht said. "But when a guy is sticking out like a sore thumb, you pounce."

Seferian-Jenkins had 36 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns in his final season of college. He also played basketball early in his career and he said he can give the Bucs a complete tight end.

"I'm going to bring explosiveness," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I'm going to bring playmaking ability. I'm going to bring blocking. I'm going to bring an all-around tight end that can play on all three downs and a guy that's going to work hard and chase Super Bowls and try to win as many games as possible for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization."

The selection of Sims, who excelled as a receiver out of the backfield, was more of a surprise because the Bucs already had Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps on the roster.

"It may seem to the outside that running back was a pretty strong position, and we felt that way, but this one kind of stood out like the tight end did," Licht said. "We have a chance to get a back that has a versatile skill set that can score points for us, and we didn't want to turn it down."
I heard one of the best summaries of what's happened to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent years on Tuesday.

"You talk about consistency and the way of doing business. That's gotten lost over the years," Derrick Brooks said, shortly after the Buccaneers announced he will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor and his jersey will be retired. "It really has. The sense of direction, how you go about doing things. All of those things have really gotten lost and can't be defined. What is the Buccaneer way?"

But Brooks believes that, with new coach Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay can get back to being a well-defined and successful team.

"Now, I think you can have an answer and get a visual of what that is," Brooks said. "That's what I think he brings. Is that going to turn into Super Bowl championships or 12-win seasons? I don't know, but I think Coach Smith being the right guy at the right time gives us a good start. He brings a lot more experience in this situation than what coach [Tony] Dungy did in 1996 because he has a better football team. You can tell by some of the offseason movements how they're going about their business. It's not overly splashy, but it's definitely been effective. Now, it's about bringing all this stuff together and keeping everybody on the same page."

I think Brooks is right. I like everything I've seen out of Smith and general manager Jason Licht so far. There's a sense of order that's reminiscent of the Dungy days. That order seemed to gradually get lost as the Bucs went through coaches Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano and general managers Bruce Allen and Mark Dominik.

Smith should know the Dungy way and how to succeed in Tampa Bay. He was the linebackers coach on Dungy's original staff in Tampa Bay. Smith went on to become defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams and the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Brooks said he's confident Smith is the coach to get things back on track in Tampa Bay.

"It's not so much the X's and O's, more so the Jims and the Joes," Brooks said. "I think he's shown my yes is yes and my no is no. It's not a guessing game with him."

Bucs need to hit on draft picks

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
8:06
AM ET
It’s been well documented that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have only one player they selected in the 2009 and 2010 drafts on their roster.

That’s defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. But guys like Josh Freeman, Arrelious Benn and Brian Price are long gone from Tampa Bay. The failure of so many draft picks is one of the reasons former coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik are gone and why the Bucs have been so active in free agency this year.

“Is it hard to make up and is it a hindrance?’’ coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. “That’s probably one of the reasons why [general manager] Jason [Licht] and I are both here right now, so that’s just a part of it.’’

Despite all of the movement in free agency, Smith said the team’s plan is to build through the draft.

“Our plan is for us to do better on the draft and make that our foundation,’’ Smith said.

Although they’ve brought in a lot of veterans, the Bucs expect their first-round draft pick (No. 7 overall) to play right away.

“As a general rule, the seventh pick, you want them to play fairly soon,’’ Smith said. “There’s no rebuilding around here. We’re trying to put together a roster to be able to win as quick as we possibly can. The seventh pick normally plays fairly soon.”
Lovie SmithKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCoach Lovie Smith and the Bucs expect to compete for championships starting this season.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There is a very good reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's most active teams in free agency.

"We thought it would be unfair to ask the fans to be patient with us," general manager Jason Licht said at the NFL owners meetings.

Fire those cannons at Raymond James Stadium and start the parade down Dale Mabry Highway. So far, Licht and coach Lovie Smith, both hired in January, are doing and saying all of the right things. They have signed 11 free agents, highlighted by defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown.

"We wanted to go out and sign as many good players as we could this year to help our football team and make it competitive this year, and strive to win a championship this year," Licht said. "Not go with, 'Hey, give us a couple years.' We want to do it as soon as we can. The fans deserve it. I found out in a two-month period that these fans are so passionate in Tampa. So we want players that are just as passionate as the fans."

Those fans should be ecstatic to hear Licht's comments. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, and hasn't won a postseason game since its Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. The franchise had good intentions in the interim, but the results weren't pretty.

Plans were put in place at various times from the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen tried to win with veterans, to the time when Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris decided to build through the draft, to the days when it looked like Greg Schiano didn't have a plan.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsLanding cornerback Alterraun Verner was part of an aggressive free-agent push by the Bucs this month.
But you can look at what Licht and Smith are doing and you see a firm plan that has a chance to work -- and work quickly.

"As you saw last year with Kansas City, sometimes a little change is healthy and successful," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said.

The Chiefs indeed are a good example of a team that turned around its fortunes rapidly. Kansas City was dreadful in 2012, but made the playoffs last season.

For any doubters who say McCown, a career backup, doesn't have what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs, let me remind you that Alex Smith was Kansas City's quarterback last season. I don't see a big difference between Smith and McCown.

Yeah, people can talk all they want about how this is a quarterback-driven league and you need a star at the position to be any good. There is some truth to that. But was Russell Wilson really the best quarterback in the NFL last season?

Of course not. Wilson did some very nice things, but there were bigger reasons why the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The defense and the running game had a lot to do with their success.

It's pretty obvious Licht and Lovie Smith are following a plan similar to Seattle's. Smith comes with a defensive background, and he inherited some good talent on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy already are in place, and you could make an argument that a pass-rusher was the only thing Tampa Bay needed to be a dominant defense. That is why the Bucs signed Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks for Cincinnati in 2012.

On offense, the Bucs have overhauled their line. They parted ways with Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah, and replaced them with Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running game should be in good shape, assuming Doug Martin is fully recovered from an injury that cut short last season.

I look at that and I see a team that might be ready to win now. I see a team with a plan that seems to make a lot of sense.

"Jason and Lovie have a plan, and that plan is that they want to win," Glazer said. "That's why we brought them in. We're all in the same boat. We want to win. They have a clear plan to get there, and that's why they were hired. We believe in the plan. We buy into the plan, and we're going to be supportive of the plan."

A few years back, the Glazers were often accused of not spending enough money to bring success. But recently, they have spent big money in free agency. This offseason, the Bucs went on another spending spree.

Licht and Smith frequently are being declared winners in free agency by the national media. They are also winning the news conferences by saying the right things.

Now, if they can go win some games in the fall, their plan could be a masterpiece.

Bucs sticking with cap approach

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
8:23
AM ET
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed general managers, but they haven’t changed their approach to the salary cap.

So far in free agency, Jason Licht has been using the same tactics as predecessor Mark Dominik. Licht has avoided using signing bonuses.

That was a Dominik trademark that ran contrary to what most of the rest of the league does. I don’t know if Licht is following orders from ownership or if he simply decided to follow Dominik’s blueprint.

Either way, it’s a smart approach. Signing bonuses can be dangerous because they spread out a cap hit through future years. If a player doesn’t work out, the team can end up with a big cap hit. That’s when you hear about “dead money’’ -- cap charges for players no longer on the roster.

Dominik preferred to pay big salaries in the early years of contracts and avoided back-loaded deals. Thanks to Dominik’s contract structures in the past, the Bucs have almost no dead money this year. The Bucs were in good cap shape throughout the Dominik years and Licht inherited a good cap situation.

The Bucs were able to release cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary without a penny counting toward the salary cap. Licht’s been positioning the Bucs the same way with the contracts he’s been giving out. He has included a few roster bonuses, but no signing bonuses.

You can call this approach frugal. I call it smart. The Bucs are taking bigger cap hits early in contracts, but that means they won't get jammed up in later years.

Mike Williams on the hot seat?

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
1:02
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Had coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik stayed with the Buccaneers, wide receiver Mike Williams might have been on his way out of Tampa Bay.

That’s according to this eye-opening report by Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report. The previous regime had serious concerns about Williams’ dedication to football and his lifestyle away from the field.

Williams
Williams
Reynolds reports that Williams was fined more than $200,000 last year for missing or being late to meetings and rehab sessions for a torn hamstring that forced him to miss the second half of last season. The report also says that Schiano and Dominik were worried that Williams was partying too much and they were prepared to release him if things didn’t change.

Schiano and Dominik are gone, but that doesn’t mean that Williams is off the hook. It’s easy to say that Williams will get a new start with coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, but that might not be accurate.

There are other people in the organization that were well aware of the concerns of Schiano and Dominik. Word will get back to Smith and Licht -- if it hasn’t already. Smith and Licht seem like no-nonsense guys.

The bottom line here is that Williams has to straighten up and fly right. If he doesn’t, Smith and Licht easily could do what Schiano and Dominik were contemplating. Williams is a good, but not great, receiver. Cutting him would have virtually no salary-cap implications. It would be very easy to part ways with Williams if things don't change.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went with an experienced head coach in Lovie Smith, they might go with a first-time general manager.

Chris Ballard appears to be the leading candidate to replace Mark Dominik, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Ballard is director of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs.

But Ballard has deep ties to Smith. They worked together in Chicago. Prior to joining the Chiefs in 2013, Ballard spent 12 years with the Bears. He spent 11 seasons as a regional scout before ascending to director of pro scouting in 2012.

Ballard might not be the biggest name out there, and he’s never been a general manager before. But he could have one big advantage. That’s his relationship with Smith.
Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy(AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackLavonte David (54) and Gerald McCoy (93) are cornerstones for what could be a stellar defense.
TAMPA, Fla. -- On the surface, the jobs as coach and general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might not look all that attractive.

But dig a little deeper and it's not hard to imagine candidates lining up to replace Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik, who were fired Monday morning. Look at Tampa Bay's roster, draft position and salary-cap situation, and it's easy to envision a turnaround on the scale of what the Kansas City Chiefs did this year, when they reached the playoffs after a 2-14 season.

Quite simply, the Bucs have too much talent to be a 4-12 team. They have Pro Bowl players in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerback Darrelle Revis. Linebacker Lavonte David should have been selected to the Pro Bowl, but was overlooked. Throw in safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and middle linebacker Mason Foster, and the Bucs have the makings of what could be a very good defense.

Although the offense struggled most of the season, the cupboard is not bare. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is a top-notch player and if Doug Martin can get healthy, he can be one of the league's best running backs.

In hindsight, Schiano and his staff didn't do a good job. Defensively, they wasted talent by having the defensive linemen stunting too often and the defensive backs playing too much zone coverage. The offense lacked imagination with the running game struggling most of the year and rookie Mike Glennon being thrown in as quarterback after the early-season benching and eventual release of Josh Freeman.

I think the defense can be tweaked, mainly by adding a pass rusher or two, and become very good very quickly. The offense is going to take more work.

But the good news for the next coach and general manager is that the Bucs have the resources to make some significant moves. They'll hold the No. 7 pick in the draft. Plus, Dominik's parting gift was a good salary-cap situation.

As it stands right now, the Bucs are about $10 million under the projected salary cap. Plus, they can carry over almost $7 million in cap space from this year. The Bucs don't have any prominent free agents of their own to re-sign, so they can be significant players in the market.

But the first major choice the new coach and general manager have to make is at quarterback. Is Glennon the long-term answer?

Had Schiano stayed, Glennon was his guy. But look at what Glennon did as a rookie and it's tough to tell if he has any chance of being a franchise quarterback. I think Glennon eventually can be a solid quarterback with a very good team around him.

But, at very least, the new coach and general manager need to bring in someone to compete with Glennon. They probably need to do more than that. They probably need to either sign a high-profile free agent (Jay Cutler?) or use their first-round pick on a quarterback.

They also need to improve the offensive line that's supposed to protect that quarterback. The line was supposed to be a strength this year, but it wasn't. Guard Carl Nicks missed all but two games due to a staph infection and foot problems and there's no guarantee Nicks will ever get back to full health. Guard Davin Joseph and tackle Donald Penn, both 30, are getting older.

It might be time to blow up the offensive line. And the team definitely needs help at tight end.

But that's not a huge to-do list. If the new coach and general manager can make a few upgrades, this team could be a lot better than 4-12 next season.

Greg Schiano never fit with Buccaneers

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
12:32
PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the final analysis, Greg Schiano was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the exact same reason he was hired.

He was an unbending disciplinarian who was never going to be loved by his players. He was as opposite as you can get from his predecessor, Raheem Morris, and that's why the Glazer family, which owns the team, lured Schiano away from Rutgers less than two years ago.

With three more seasons left on his contract, the Glazers showed Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik the door on Monday. The Bucs went 11-21 in Schiano's two seasons. The on-field results weren't flattering, but the off-field stuff was even more of a calamity.

Quite simply, the Glazers made a big mistake when they hired Schiano. There was no question Morris had to go and the Bucs needed to run a tighter ship. But the Bucs went overboard and brought in a steel barge that ended up sinking very quickly.

The Bucs went from one extreme to another instead of settling for something in the middle. They went with a coach who operated like he still was in college. Schiano came in and took control of everything, from the way practices were structured to the thermostat setting at One Buccaneer Place.

I had no problem with him running off Aqib Talib, LeGarrette Blount and Kellen Winslow. Those three were talented, but more trouble than they were worth. Their departures sent a message to the rest of the team that nobody was sacred. Had it ended there, Schiano might have been all right.

But it didn't end there. Schiano went too far in trying to control everything and everyone in the building, and it backfired on him. The strongest example came in the person of Josh Freeman, who once was viewed as the franchise quarterback.

There are two sides to every story, and Freeman had his flaws -- including an inability to find a functioning alarm clock -- but I think this situation could have been handled a lot differently.

Freeman was talented and a good guy. But he was a unique personality. He was laid back and cool, two traits that Schiano doesn't prefer in a quarterback. So Freeman and Schiano clashed.

And they didn't just clash. They did it in spectacular fashion. As Freeman went from being the franchise quarterback to being released, bombshells came from both sides. The ugliest point came when it was reported that Freeman was in the league's drug-testing program.

Freeman's camp alleged that Schiano was the one who leaked that sensitive information. Schiano firmly denied he had any involvement. But the damage was done.

Even if it's not accurate, there's a point where perception becomes reality. If you were a player in Tampa Bay's locker room, you suddenly got the impression that even your confidential records could become public.

The soap-opera atmosphere of the past few months was more than a little ironic. Schiano was supposed to be the guy who brought much-needed order to the franchise. Instead, he went overboard on matters of control -- and that's why things spun out of control.

Was this Greg Schiano's last stand?

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
6:33
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Suddenly, this wild and wacky season seemed like it was about to make total sense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Without any real warning, the Bucs suddenly seemed on the verge of beating a good football team. Raymond James Stadium was starting to rock like it used to in the glory days. Greg Schiano's hot seat seemed to be on the verge of getting hit by air conditioning.

Then, in a fashion in which the Bucs have trademarked this season, it all fell apart. Water found its own level and the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Bucs 33-14 in what might have amounted to Schiano's last stand.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Stacy Revere/Getty Images"We felt like we had the opportunity and we let it go," Greg Schiano said after the Bucs' latest loss.
Despite being dismal on offense for the better part of three quarters, the Bucs were right where they wanted to be. With 12 minutes, 9 seconds left in the game, they trailed 20-14. San Francisco had the ball and faced a third-and-12 from its own 29-yard line.

A stop there and maybe Tampa Bay's offense, which had suddenly found some momentum, could have squeezed out a touchdown drive to win the game. It all seemed to be going according to plan as defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and William Gholston chased San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of the pocket and toward the sideline.

A sack and a punt and Tampa Bay's offense might have faced a short field. But Tampa Bay's season is a story of "what ifs," and this became the biggest one of all. What if Bowers or Gholston makes the sack? What if Kaepernick throws the ball away?

It doesn't really matter because Kaepernick scrambled free and found Michael Crabtree for a first down. That helped keep alive a drive that lasted 10:27 and resulted in a San Francisco field goal.

"We want to be respected," linebacker Lavonte David said after the Buccaneers fell to 4-10. "Even though our record shows otherwise, we want to show that we're a real force in this league. We feel like, this record that we've got, it's not supposed to be like that. We had the opportunity against a great football team. We showed up, but the 10-minute drive kind of killed us."

The 49ers followed that with a knockout punch that the Bucs helped deliver. On the kickoff after the field goal, the Bucs attempted a reverse, but a handoff between Eric Page and Russell Shepard went awry and San Francisco took the ball into the end zone for a touchdown and a 30-14 lead. That effectively ended the game.

"All week, we talked about making it a fourth-quarter game," Schiano said. "A heavyweight fight, get it to the fourth quarter and find a way to win. That's why it's very disappointing for players and coaches alike, is that we felt like we had the opportunity and we let it go."

This little turn of events was about ending more than just one game. It's the story of the season. Another opportunity lost, and maybe the final straw in a coaching tenure.

A victory would have made the Bucs winners of five of their last six games. It would have been the fourth straight home win. Follow it up with victories at St. Louis and New Orleans and Schiano's job probably becomes pretty secure.

But the reality is the Bucs are sinking toward the bottom of the NFC, and even the most optimistic fan can't argue that the arrow is pointing up. There's a huge decision ahead.

Does Schiano get a third year or does he get fired? Does general manager Mark Dominik get brought back for a sixth season?

That decision is ultimately up to the Glazer family, which owns the team. History has shown the Glazers are unpredictable, and it's anyone's guess what they'll do with Schiano.

But let's close this out with a little exercise in common sense. Back in the preseason a lot of people -- and we're talking people outside and inside One Buccaneer Place -- believed the Bucs could make the playoffs this season after going 7-9 in Schiano's first year.

Now, they're staring down the barrel at 4-12, maybe 5-11 or, at best, 6-10. None of those options are attractive.

A victory against the 49ers, and all the positives that could have followed, quite possibly would have solidified Schiano's grip on his job. But that victory didn't happen. It slipped away, just like the rest of the season.

You have to wonder if Schiano's chance to stick around slipped away Sunday.
An examination of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

[+] EnlargeTampa Bay's Mike James
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesTampa Bay rookie Mike James rushed for 158 yards on 28 carries in the loss at Seattle.
The hottest seat in the NFL: That belongs to Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, who is 0-8 this season and has lost 13 of 14 games dating back to last year. Current ownership never has gone with an interim coach. But the exception could be coming soon. Although the team still is playing hard, the Bucs aren’t winning. We’ve heard rumblings since he was hired that Schiano isn’t a favorite of the players. I can’t imagine that morale is very high right now.

The second-half woes continue: The Bucs scored three points in the second half against Seattle. That’s not surprising. They’ve been collapsing in the second half all season. Think back to the losses to the Saints and Jets. If this team wasn’t so bad in the second half, it could be in playoff contention.

The second-hottest seat in the NFL: General manager Mark Dominik doesn’t get talked about all that much, but you have to start wondering about his future. Since Dominik took over in 2009, the Bucs are 24-48. Yes, there are eight guys on the current roster that have been to Pro Bowls and Dominik has given the Bucs a roster that’s more talented than the record reflects. But when things turn really bad for a franchise, sometimes the coach isn’t the only one to go.

The bright spot: It became pretty obvious the Bucs found something in rookie running back Mike James. He filled in for an injured Doug Martin and rushed for 158 yards while also throwing a touchdown pass. Martin’s job is safe, whenever he gets healthy. But I’m thinking it might be wise for the Bucs to let Martin sit the rest of the season. Bring him back healthy next year and he and James can give the Bucs a pretty deep backfield.

Trade deadline approaching for Bucs

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
8:00
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- The NFL trading deadline comes Tuesday afternoon and I’m not expecting any major moves out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Part of that is because, unlike baseball and basketball, the NFL just doesn’t have a lot of trades. But part of that is because there aren’t a lot of logical reasons for the Bucs to be active.

I can’t see them trading for a player because it’s not like a single player, or even a couple players, will come in and fix all the problems of an 0-7 team. Besides, it likely would take draft picks for the Bucs to add any players. Even though there’s no guarantee they still will be around next year, general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano would be doing the team a disservice by trading away draft picks that are needed for long-term fixes.

If there’s any movement at all, I see a slight chance the Bucs could trade a player on their current roster for a draft pick. But even that’s a long shot because it’s not like the Bucs are loaded with depth at any position.

Greg Schiano moves onto hot seat

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
3:10
PM ET


TAMPA, Fla. -- They took a big, expensive layer of insulation Thursday out of One Buccaneer Place. Now head coach Greg Schiano will face the consequences alone for a season gone wrong.

After being unable to find any takers on a trade, the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers simply released Josh Freeman. It's a sad ending for a guy I believe had a chance to be the first true franchise quarterback in Bucs history.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano, Josh Freeman
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackGreg Schiano and Josh Freeman had little common ground.
But the move was inevitable. From the day Schiano was hired, he and the quarterback were on a collision course. Schiano likes rah-rah leaders with fires in their bellies. Freeman is laid-back and not a vocal leader. Despite Freeman's enormous talent, he and Schiano couldn't find a common ground. That's because Schiano stood his ground so firmly.

Any time a football team struggles, two people automatically get the blame: the head coach and the quarterback. Freeman shouldered more than his share of the blame for Tampa Bay's 0-4 start. He was publicly humiliated when he was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. There were numerous reports of Freeman missing the team photo, being late to meetings and being in the league's drug program.

Freeman took the fall, but now he's gone. That means Schiano has lost his insulation. It's all on the head coach now.

Schiano made that the case when he and general manager Mark Dominik went to ownership and said they wanted to bench Freeman and go with Glennon. The Glazer sons, who run the franchise, aren't the type to meddle much in football matters.

I'm sure the Glazers gave this one plenty of thought. Ultimately, they decided to side with their head coach. That makes sense because Schiano has three more years on his contract and Freeman was in the last year of his rookie deal.

But contrary to public belief in Tampa, the Glazers aren't just about money. They love football and they desperately want to win. More than that, they hate to be embarrassed.

Things are very embarrassing in Tampa Bay with the Bucs in their bye week. Maybe unloading Freeman clears up some of the problems.

But maybe it doesn't. Glennon didn't look great in his first start, and that means opposing teams are going to focus on running back Doug Martin. The defense has played reasonably well but has collapsed when it mattered most.

Schiano is supposed to be all about order and discipline, but his team is in disarray. He's made his power play by running off Freeman.

Now, more than ever, the coach has to get the rest of the team to buy into his ways. Good luck with that, because there have been persistent rumblings that the players don't like Schiano's militaristic manner.

I think the next four weeks will determine Schiano's future. If the Bucs win a few games, Glennon plays well and there are other signs of life, Schiano could have a shot at sticking around.

If the Bucs keep losing and there are signs that players aren't putting forth full effort, Schiano will be gone.

For now, the insulation is gone, and that means Schiano is officially on the hot seat.
TAMPA, Fla.. – After last season, Greg Schiano said he didn’t believe any NFL coaches and players were wed to each other. As it turns out, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was right.

And wrong.

Schiano showed he wasn't wed to Josh Freeman when he confirmed Wednesday that he was benching the fifth-year quarterback. Now Schiano has tied his entire future to Mike Glennon.

That’s the rookie who will replace Freeman in the starting lineup Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano, Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackGreg Schiano's move to make Mike Glennon (center) the starter over Josh Freeman means the coach is now wedded to his quarterback.
"I think Mike Glennon is Mike Glennon," Schiano said shortly after pointing to the success of rookie quarterbacks last season. "He’s going to help us win Sunday, and he’s going to help us win a lot of games."

Let’s face reality. Freeman remains on the roster for now, but it’s likely he’ll be elsewhere before the trade deadline in late October. This divorce between Freeman and Schiano was in the works for a long time.

Freeman was never Schiano’s "guy." Glennon is.

Schiano’s been infatuated with Glennon for years. He tried to recruit Glennon to Rutgers when he was coaching the Scarlet Knights. Glennon elected to go to North Carolina State, but Schiano didn’t want the quarterback to get away again and took him with a third-round draft pick in April.

At that moment, Freeman’s fate was pretty much sealed. The Bucs lost five of their final six games last season and Freeman struggled down the stretch. After the season, the Bucs looked at quarterbacks such as veteran Carson Palmer before ultimately deciding to draft Glennon.

The Bucs gave Freeman a chance to hold onto the job, but the deck was stacked against him. He failed to complete more than 50 percent of his passes in any of the first three regular-season games, and the offense never seemed to get into any rhythm.

“We’ve lost eight of nine games and we haven’t played particularly well on offense in the last nine games," Schiano said. “Although it’s not completely the quarterback’s fault, that position touches the ball every play."

The Bucs have a bye after the Arizona game, and could have waited to make a quarterback switch.

“It is beneficial I think that Mike will get to play a game and then have a bye week to really decipher through it and learn from the experience before he has to play his next game," Schiano said. “That’s a side benefit of the decision. But it wasn’t by any means the reason it was made now. We felt that it was time that Mike Glennon gave us the best chance to win and that’s why we did it."

So, just like that, the Bucs cast aside Freeman, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2009. Freeman was drafted by former coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. Morris is long gone, but Dominik, the one with ties to Freeman, is still around. If there’s a fall guy for Freeman’s failure, it could be Dominik.

But Dominik and Schiano spent a lot of time together before the decision was made to go with Glennon. Then, they got the blessing of ownership. Now, they’re ready to move on.

There’s almost no chance Freeman can win the job back.

“Mike’s our starting quarterback from this point forward," Schiano said. “We’re moving forward and Mike’s our quarterback. That’s the plan and that’s how we’re going."

Isn’t going with a rookie quarterback sending a message to the veterans that this team is starting over?

“Not this rookie quarterback," Schiano said. “Not in my opinion. I think he gives us the best chance to win Sunday. That’s why we’re doing it."

Glennon had better win quickly. The Bucs are 0-3, and Wednesday marked a big day in franchise history. It was the day Freeman got pushed out of a job. That takes a big layer of insulation away from Schiano. The coach now is wed to his quarterback, and he'd better be right about this one.

If Schiano’s wrong about Glennon, this decision could cost him his job.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD