Tampa Bay had an unexpectedly impressive season this year, with Greg Schiano winning six of his first 10 games and putting the Buccaneers in playoff contention. But things have been kind of rocky lately, as Tampa Bay has lost its last four games, including Sunday's humiliating shutout in New Orleans.
It's the first time the Saints pitched a home shutout since 1991, and it's a low point for a promising Bucs team. And the losing is apparently starting to grate on Bucs players.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, "one player privately" complained following the loss that he'd like to send Schiano and his coaches "back to college."
"Can we send these coaches back to college?" the player reportedly said.
The obvious logic here is that Schiano's hardcore coaching style isn't going over well with some of the players. There's at least one piece of proof that the players and coaching staff are clashing -- linebacker Adam Hayward and defensive front-seven coach Bryan Cox engaged in a little pushing and shoving match on the sidelines in Sunday's game.
Schiano, unsurprisingly, was "not happy about" the incident" but said it's "been resolved."
"I think you chalk it up to heat of the moment," Schiano said afterward, via JoeBucsFan.com. "Guys are very passionate. Adam is a passionate player. Coach Cox is a passionate coach. I know they're very close. And they're, I think, more of a family spat in a frustrating time than, you know, anything that I'm deeply concerned about. I know they've already smoothed that over. But again, it's not what a football team that I'm the head coach of I want to see.
"So, certainly, it's been addressed, and it will be addressed and we'll move forward from it. But it need not happen again."
Tampa Bay's 2012 season is much different than the nightmare that was 2011. Six wins assures that. But the Buccaneers are now on a four-game losing streak with games at home against the Rams and in Atlanta remaining. Losing those would mean a 6-10 record, and it would take away a lot of the luster from the Bucs' strong start to the year.
It would also open things up for more anonymous criticism of the hard-nosed Buccaneers coaching staff. Whether or not players prefer discipline-heavy coaches in the NFL is an argument that's up for debate. But one thing's clear: when a team is losing, no style of coaching comes off well.
And that's particularly true of a heavy-handed guy like Schiano. But hoping that college coaches get shipped back to campus is wishful thinking. Jim Harbaugh's succeeding, Schiano had a strong first year and, if anything, we're likely to see more college guys infiltrating the NFL coaching ranks in the coming year.