Two And Out
January 05, 2014 at 03:00pm by Scott • 9 Comments »
When the news came down about the Bucs firing Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik, my first reaction was one of disappointment and absolutely no surprise. No NFL head coach is allowed to take a step backward. Raheem Morris went 10-6 then followed it up with a 4-12 season. Gone. Greg Schiano goes 7-9 in his first season and follows it up with 4-12, and he’s gone too. I was happy to see Morris go because I ultimately didn’t think he was the right guy for the job. But I thought Schiano deserved some more time. These days, head coaches are expected to be perfect and no one is given enough time to get their system to work or instill a culture into the locker room. Rob Chudzinski was fired from the Browns the day before and had only been in Cleveland one season and I didn’t think that was right either even though I couldn’t possibly care less about the Browns. I thought Schiano had brought some discipline and accountability to the team that had been lacking for the past few seasons and that the 2013 season was a necessary step to a better future.
And that shows you exactly how little attention I paid this season.
Story after story came out this year about how Schiano was this huge jackass with no working understanding of how to relate to players who over the age of 20. It was like he was really trying to earn his “World’s Biggest Tool” coffee mug. Whether he was kicking school children out of practice for being too distracting to the players or former Bucs comparing the Schiano regime to Cuba or Schiano himself saying after he was canned that the Tampa Bay situation “needed Greg Schiano“, the guy was an Olympic-class knob. I’ve looked for articles expressing sympathy for Schiano or at least a small “he wasn’t so bad” sentiment after his firing. Nothing. Everyone is happy to see him gone and most everyone predicts he’ll turn up as a high school weight lifting coach, yelling at students who haven’t given enough effort to pop a hernia through their navel yet.
I have different feelings about Mark Dominik, though. I thought throughout the season that the Bucs had enough talent on the field to win. The running back depth was solid all year long even though they were reduced to playing the guy that even Cleveland didn’t want. The linebacking corps is stellar. And the secondary, once the bane of the team, is much improved. Yes, of course there are problems (QUARTERBACK), but all teams have problems. Dominik is a good evaluator of talent and has kept the Bucs in good cap shape so as to be able to afford some of the pricier free agents. His one flaw is apparently hiring head coaches — and that’s a big one. Unless you’re the one writing the checks (like Jerry Jones), you can’t just hire any old schmuck who will take the job (like everybody Jerry Jones hired) and get away with it when the team keeps on losing (like Jerry Jones’s team). So I get it. I just don’t like it. DISCLAIMER: I have spoken with Dominik on several occasions and like him personally. I know being a nice guy doesn’t put your team in the playoffs, but if it did, his team would always be a contender.
Now the Glazers went on their own and hired Lovie Smith, the most average NFL coach ever. Seriously, if you lined up everyone who has ever coached in the NFL in a single line ordered by how good they were, Lovie Smith would be in the dead center. But they weren’t going to go with a college name again after Schiano leg-whipped their team into another top ten draft pick. And they certainly weren’t going to go with another up-and-comer coordinator after Morris went on to define “youngry” as “inexperienced and bad at our jobs”. And there are no former Super Bowl-winning coaches who want to leave their cushy gigs for the sidelines at the moment (although it has been reported that both Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher had been approached). So who’s left? Former NFL head coaches who had recently been fired. And Smith is at the top of that list.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Smith. He’s got Tampa roots, he’s a high-character guy and he will command the respect of the players without anyone using the term “Napoleon complex“. He coached Chicago for nine years, went to the playoffs three times including one trip to the Super Bowl and was fired after a 10-6 season in 2012. He’s just not very exciting. But that’s okay. Nothing is more exciting than winning, so Smith can have the personality of a bag of wet hair as long as he’s racking up victories. It is being reported that Smith will bring in former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator and former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier as his defensive coordinator. That’s a solid core of coaches. Boring, but solid.
So there you go. Smith will fill in the vacancies with the rest of the coaching staff soon and at some point the Glazers will hire a general manager who is compatible with Smith (right now, Chris Ballard, who was GM in Chicago while Smith was there, is the name being bandied about — not that it matters a whole lot since Smith has final say on the roster) and we’ll fall back into another offseason with a new regime. Only about six weeks until the combine.