Three weeks ago, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 0-4 instead of their current 0-7, a general manager from another team singled them out as the one struggling NFL team most likely to rebound in a big way next season. The GM felt Tampa Bay had the talent to compete and simply needed a spark of some sort, perhaps through a change at quarterback or in the head coach.
While the Buccaneers continue to stand by second-year coach Greg Schiano, at least for now, ESPN.com's Matt Williamson and Mike Sando consider what the team's plan should be moving forward -- on the sideline and through the offseason.
Should the Buccaneers fire Schiano now?
Williamson: He needs to go. This is the most obviously warranted coaching change in the league right now. I'm still not a big believer that it does a lot of good in the middle of the season. It doesn't accomplish much to just get him out of the building now. But the effort this team is putting forth is terrible. They looked disinterested in their last game. They are not schematically diverse. All Schiano wants to do is run the ball and stop the run. You don't win Super Bowls that way.
Sando: There might be only a small chance Schiano turns things around and becomes the coach the Bucs thought they were getting. There is zero chance of that happening if the team fires him. And what is the upside with Dave Wannstedt or Butch Davis in charge? What it comes down to, really, is whether the negativity surrounding Schiano has reached a point that the organization feels it needs to change the subject. Firing the coach turns the attention to next season. While Schiano deserves criticism, I think it's only fair to acknowledge that we wouldn't be having this conversation if the Buccaneers had gotten better play at quarterback.
Williamson: Yes, but Josh Freeman got too much blame. I think it's easy to just say the quarterback stinks. To me, the biggest problem, quarterback aside, is they are not living up to their talent. They are the Kansas City Chiefs of last year. And some of the stuff we've heard about Schiano -- that he's a bully and tough to deal with -- is very much consistent with what I heard of him during his Rutgers days. We recruited against Schiano when I was at Pitt, and I came into contact with people who worked for him back then. He did a great job turning that program around and he could really recruit. He doesn't lack for hard work or aggression, but that stuff goes only so far at the pro level. What's wrong from a football standpoint?
Sando: The negativity takes on a life of its own in these situations, especially when the head coach has a reputation as being more hardline in nature. The Bucs' record makes Schiano an easy target. Much of what he does becomes subject for ridicule, not just criticism or analysis, and some of the ridicule seems opportunistic. For example, this week I noticed Pro Football Focus hadDarrelle Revis ranked as the top-performing cornerback in the NFL through Week 8. The public narrative says the Bucs are wasting Revis' talents by using him in zone coverage too frequently. That might be true, but Revis still has been the best corner in the league, according to people who chart all the plays. What are the real scheme complaints you have regarding Schiano?
Williamson: He is not out-scheming anybody. Rex Ryan will out-scheme you on defense. Nothing jumps out at me as redeeming about Schiano's scheme. His lineage comes from the University of Miami. The old-school way of doing things at the U was to play a 4-3 defense and not be too creative until third down because we've got better Jimmys and Joes than you do. Last year, Wannstedt ran the most vanilla defense in the league for Buffalo. It was almost embarrassing. The Bills' defense is 10 times better this year without being 10 times better personnel wise.
Sando: And that hits at one of the key points on Revis. If you're going to pay a cornerback $16 million a year, the defense probably needs to revolve around him. No other corner in the league is earning even $11 million annually, so Revis is basically making quarterback money. If only he could play that position, the Bucs might not be in their current predicament.
Can Mike Glennon be the long-term QB?
Williamson: We don't know that yet, but we've seen glimpses. Hopefully, the season will tell us that. Let's be optimistic and say he has a chance to be a franchise quarterback, which is true right now from what I've seen. Glennon does a lot of things well. If he can be a franchise QB, it solves a lot of problems, as this team doesn't need much else. Let's say they have the second overall pick. What do they want? They don't have a glaring hole. They can still approach the draft as going for the best players available.
Sando: And if Glennon is not looking like the answer by season's end, the Bucs could still take one of the top quarterbacks early in the draft. They could then trade Glennon or keep him as a low-priced backup with upside. Glennon has five touchdown passes with one interception over his past three starts. He's also taken eight sacks, including five on third down, over that span. But that is life with a young quarterback. This team ranks 32nd in yards per play, 31st in points per game (14.3), 31st in point per drive (1.15) and 31st in percentage of drives producing points (23.5). I don't see those numbers improving in Seattle this week.
Williamson: The Bucs are in good shape for the longer term even if Glennon doesn't pan out. They could use the second overall pick for Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota, then take the best player available at the beginning of every round. In that case, you might get the 20th guy on your board with the 34th pick. It really does remind me of the Chiefs. They needed a QB, took a short cut and brought in a guy with a limited ceiling who cost them two second-rounders and is vastly better than what they had last season. This Tampa Bay team is constructed well. The GM, Mark Dominik, is doing a good job with the roster overall.
If Schiano is fired, who should be the next head coach?
Williamson: It would be great to get the next Andy Reid, the guy who has won a lot of games in this league and brings an instant personality, charisma and leadership to the building.
Sando: What about Lovie Smith? He has the background in Tampa, he would command respect instantly and he would strike the right balance between being a players' coach (Raheem Morris) and being too far the other way (Schiano). I know people would immediately say Revis wouldn't fit in a Cover 2 defense. That would have to be a consideration, but it's also true that Smith ran a lot more man defense later in his time with the Bears.
Williamson: I like it, but my only reservation is that you'd better get a great quarterbacks coach or QB guru because we all know how that situation worked out for Smith in Chicago. Whoever the quarterback is will be young and need work. Maybe someone like Mike Mularkey would make sense. He had two years left on his deal in Jacksonville when the Jaguars fired him. He's available.
Sando: When you hire a defensive head coach, you almost need that Norv Turner type who is good but won't necessarily be on everyone's list to become a head coach. That is one reason I'd really prefer an offensive-minded head coach in general. The owner, head coach and quarterback are usually the three most important figures in an organization. Hiring an offensive-minded head coach provides a quarterback insurance against losing a coordinator. Greg Roman of the San Francisco 49ers was one potential candidate I recommended when we discussed the Minnesota Vikings' future during our conversation last week.
What does this team need from a personnel standpoint?
Williamson: I like the roster. Guard Davin Joseph ($6 million salary in 2014) might be the one salary-related roster dump in the offseason. They are not great anywhere, but they do not have huge holes. Their top two needs are for an edge pass-rusher, and then the offensive line needs a starter or two. Getting Carl Nicks healthy would go a long way there. They could use one outside linebacker, another tight end as an upgrade to Timothy Wright and a slot receiver. But you don't absolutely have to have any of those. They can bring in some vets in free agency off winning teams and hopefully they step up. It wouldn't hurt if they had one or two guys in the Ed Reedmold as high-quality individuals who have won. I doubt that locker room has guys like that. Collectively, those players on that team don't have many wins under their belts.
Sando: Tampa Bay has the third-youngest defensive players behind those for Cleveland and San Diego. The offensive players are younger than the league average. Thirteen of the 14 players with the highest scheduled salary-cap charges for 2014 remain under contract through at least 2015. Gerald McCoy is the exception, as his deal runs through 2014 only. If Schiano fails to stick around, someone is going to walk into a pretty good situation. This is not Jacksonville by any stretch. The Buccaneers do need to decide whether Revis is worth $16 million for a second season. If Revis remains on the roster March 13, the Bucs will have to send their 2014 third-round pick to the Jets. Otherwise, the Jets will receive Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick.
Williamson: The quarterback is the first decision they have to make. They could bring in a veteran as a good No. 2, someone in the Matt Hasselbeck mold who is good in the meeting room with Glennon. Or they use that first-rounder for a QB. Either way, they will not have a ton of money tied up in the position. They'll be better than they are now with Glennon as the quality No. 2 or as the starter. Some of that might be scheme-dependent. Glennon is a pocket passer. If you keep him, you could wind up potentially getting Jadeveon Clowney with the second pick in the draft. Put him on the line with McCoy and a potentially great secondary with Lavonte Davidat linebacker and they could be really good in a hurry.