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By Dory LeBlanc
NFL Columnist Mike Silver released a scathing article on NFL.com this morning, claiming Greg Schiano is losing the Buccaneers with his autocratic style.
As the Bucs prepare to host the Carolina Panthers on NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football," it's abundantly clear that Schiano and the NFL is as poor a fit as Yasiel Puig and the NLCS, on so many levels. Most glaringly, the autocratic Schiano operates with an inherent deficit of respect, both for America's preeminent sports league and for the men he's trying to lead.
And yes, you'll notice I used the word men. That's because I've spoken to enough people who've played for Schiano during his two NFL seasons to conclude that he treats his players like children, which is a major reason he has lost his locker room.
According to the veteran journalist, one player who spent last season wearing the pewter and red equated playing for the Bucs to being under the rule of a Communist government.
"How bad is it there? It's worse than you can imagine," the unknown player said. "It's like being in Cuba."
Silver goes on to write that it's not only former players who are turned off by Schiano's methods - current players, NFL scouts, and coaches are as well. One personnel executive told Silver last September that visits to Rutgers to scout players under the reign of Schiano were "pure misery."
After the Bucs were instructed to blow up the Giants' offensive line last season at MetLife Stadium in an effort to pry the ball away from QB Eli Mannning at the end of the game, Silver claims a veteran NFL coach told him, "It's his way or (expletive) you. He needs to back up a little bit, or he's going to have a very hard time in this league over the long haul."
Tampa Bay would try the stunt again against Manning's brother and future Hall of Famer Peyton and the Broncos several weeks later, prompting an uncharacteristic response from the elder sibling according to former DE Michael Bennett, now with the Seahawks.
"Peyton cussed him out," Bennett recollected to Silver. "And I ain't never heard Peyton cuss."
Bennett went on to say it wasn't only opposing players who weren't all-in on Schiano's kneel-down approach.
"People just really hate it when you have to dive at people's legs. At the end of the day, we've got to keep going and move onto the next game and try to make a living. Some of these guys (on other teams) are our friends."
The former Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! Sports columnist also brings up the Josh Freeman situation:
If torpedoing kneel-down plays was Schiano's lone controversial quirk, this would hardly be cause for an internal tune-out of his leadership. So far this season, however, Schiano has compromised his standing by jettisoning his starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, under circumstances many in the locker room perceived as shady.
First Freeman was stripped of his captaincy in a vote that some players believed was rigged. Then, in an apparent effort to defend himself against mounting criticism, Schiano publicly chastised Freeman for having missed a team photo. After benching Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, ESPN reported that the quarterback was in stage one of the NFL's drug program.
Freeman responded angrily, issuing a statement that read, "I have never tested positive for any illegal drugs or related substances." The NFL Players Association called for a joint league/union investigationto determine the source of the leaked information regarding Freeman's inclusion in the confidential program, insinuating that Schiano was responsible.
Even if we give Schiano the benefit of the doubt and exonerate him of all Freeman-related transgressions -- and chalk up the dispute to a coach's understandable decision to replace (and ultimately release) a struggling player who had become a distraction -- it's easy to see why many inside the Bucs' locker room are skeptical.
Perhaps the biggest blow Silver delivers to Schiano in the article is that Bennett point-blank says the current players don't respect their head coach.
"I think he just wants to flex his power," Bennett said. "He has small (man's) syndrome. I still talk to guys who are there, and trust me, there's not much respect for him in that locker room."
Silver reports that one current player told him that certian members of the Bucs' squad starting questioning Schiano after the joint practices with the Patriots at One Buc Place last August.
"He gathered us before we practiced and told us that if Belichick said something to us on the field, we should listen," the anonymous player recounted. "He said, 'Treat their coaches like they're your coaches.' We were like, 'Huh?' When we practiced together, whatever Belichick wanted, he did. It was hilarious -- here (Schiano) is, acting like Mr. Tough Guy all the time, and when Belichick wanted something he was like, 'Yes, Bill.' "
Silver, who calls the situation in Tampa a "shipwreck", does acknowledge that it is not uncommon in pro sports for an ownership group to go from one end of the discipline spectrum to the other when it comes to coaching hires.
Under Raheem Morris, the Bucs had one of the loosest locker rooms in the league, and understandably the Glazers opted to go in a completely different direction with the Schiano hire last January.
But looking at it now, from MRSA to the 0-6 record, the Buccaneers organization may want to head in another direction - middle ground. The real question is, when do they start looking?
To read the entire article on NFL.com, CLICK HERE.