The Tampa Buccaneers are a team in distress; they have just completed the first half of the 2013 season and have yet to win a game. Going back to last season they have lost 13 out of their last 14 games with their lone win against an Atlanta team who was resting their starters in Week 17 as they prepared for the playoffs. The team has had about everything imaginable go wrong for them this season along with a few imaginable disasters.
The 2012 season ended on a bad note and before the 2013 season started things went from bad to worse. They have had several players contract the MRSA virus which is a very serious drug resistant staph infection that in some cases can be fatal.
Head coach Greg Schiano appears to have lost the locker room and it is believed he will be fired before the season ends. Former Buccaneers players have come out publically and stated that Schiano has little to no respect among the players with his hardnosed tactics and demeanor.
Schiano handled the Josh Freeman situation as about as bad as it could have been handled. Accusations were made Schiano leaked information about Freeman’s participation in the league’s substance abuse program, despite Freeman never being suspended. This is a major accusation because this is an outrageous breach of privacy and trust.
There were rumblings among Buccaneer players that Schiano rigged the voting for the team captains after Freeman missed the team photo in the preseason. The vote ultimately revoked Freeman’s status as a captain, a title he had held in seasons past. During the last game Freeman was on the Buccaneers roster, he was deactivated and was told to watch the game from a suite rather than on the sideline with his teammates. The ugly situation with Schiano and Freeman was not without wrong doing on both sides and Freeman’s on field performance did justify Schiano’s decision to bench him. Regardless of who is to blame, this was a toxic ordeal that clearly impacted this team right out of the gate. The players called a players only meeting before taking a regular season snap to address turmoil within the organization.
Despite the poor record and internal dysfunction in Tampa Bay, things are not as dreary as they appear. They can put a fork in the 2013 season but going into next year, Tampa Bay can have the same kind of turn around the San Francisco 49ers had in 2011. That 49ers team made the NFC Championship game a year after going 6-10. The key to a similar turnaround for the Bucs will be to make sure Schiano won’t be there to see it.
The Buccaneers have a very talented roster with the likes of Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Mike Williams, Gerald McCoy, Darrell Revis, Dashon Goldson, Mason Foster and Mark Barron. This is a very good nucleus with a defense that has top five potential. Like the 2011 49ers, the team has playmakers on both sides of the ball and also a question mark at quarterback. Can Mike Glennon be as productive as Alex Smith was in San Francisco? It is certainly possible.
If Glennon can continue to develop and not lose games for the team, the rest of the roster is good enough to win despite not having a top tier quarterback. In 2011 Jim Harbaugh inherited virtually the same roster that Mike Singletary won only five games with the year before; interim head coach Jim Tomsula won his only game as head coach after Singletary was fired improving the 49ers record to 6-10. The team underachieved under Singletary despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league. Under Harbaugh the 49ers instantly became contenders and were a muffed punt away from the Superbowl in his first season and making it there in year two.
Tampa Bay is all but assured a top five pick in the 2014 draft so they should be able to get some more talent ready to contribute in 2014. Combine the high draft picks, existing talent on the roster, improved moral a coaching change would bring and finding the right head coach, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can be legitimate contenders in 2014.