TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Greg Schiano believes he changed the Tampa Buccaneers for the better, though not enough to save his job.
The embattled Bucs coach was fired Monday after two losing years extended the franchise's playoff drought to six seasons. General manager Mark Dominik was also ousted, ending an unsuccessful five-year stint that produced flashes of hope but far more disappointment than ownership felt was acceptable.
"The results over the past two years have not lived up to our standards and we believe the time has come to find a new direction," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a brief statement released a day after a season-ending 42-17 loss to the New Orleans dropped Schiano's record to 11-21.
"Mark has been a valued member of our organization for two decades and we respect the passion he showed for the Buccaneers during his time here," Glazer added. "We thank Greg for his hard work and effort the past two seasons, but we feel these moves are necessary in order to achieve our goals."
In typical Bucs fashion, the reclusive owners of the team announced the third coaching change in five years with a one paragraph statement and did not schedule a news conference to discuss the situation. Schiano had three years and $9 million remaining on his contract.
Schiano thanked the Glazer family for the opportunity to coach the Bucs, and also expressed gratitude to his players, coaching staff and fans. His biggest regret simply was not winning enough games to reflect the progress he feels the Bucs made under him.
"I think we're leaving behind a football team that is better than when we got here," Schiano told reporters at a hotel near the team's training facility. "It was quite an honor and I enjoyed every day of it," the coach added. "We didn't get it done. I accept responsibility for that."
Word of the firing broke less than 30 minutes after the team closed the locker room, where players were sorting through equipment and belongings before scattering for the offseason. They met with the coaching and medical staff for exit interviews and physicals. They had not been informed of the dismissals before media was allowed into the room.
Many, including Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, had hoped Schiano would keep his job. "It's tough for the players to see your coaches go. You never want to see anybody get fired," McCoy said after the announcement. "Me personally, I haven't had any consistency in my career. Third head coach, going on my fifth year and three head coaches. Add up everybody, it'll be six d-line coaches."
The Bucs went 7-9 in their first season under Schiano, collapsing after a 6-4 start that had the team in playoff contention. After trading for three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and signing safety Dashon Goldson in free agency to bolster a porous defense, the team entered training camp this season with heightened expectations.
But a messy split with former quarterback Josh Freeman, an outbreak of MRSA infections in the locker room and reports that Schiano was losing the support of players tiring of his rules and coaching style dogged the team during an 0-8 start that put the coach's job in jeopardy.
Despite having a rookie quarterback and finishing with 16 players on injured reserve, including running back Doug Martin and receiver Mike Williams, the Bucs went 4-4 over the second half of the season. That hardly seemed like progress, though, because the offense got progressively worse and finished last in the NFL in passing and total yardage.
Still, players seemed impressed with the way Schiano held the team together, insisting right up until the end that the coach never lost the locker room. "In times like that you see a lot of guys crumble, a lot of guys break. You never saw a different attitude with him," McCoy said. "... He's the most consistent thing in the building, I will give him that."
Schiano was hired in January 2012, leaving Rutgers to take over a team that ended its final 10 games under Raheem Morris on a 10-game losing streak. He inherited one the NFL's worst defenses, but also a young quarterback in Freeman, who won 10 games in his first full season as a starter and became the franchise's first 4,000-yard passer in Schiano's first year in Tampa Bay.
But Freeman's relationship with Schiano soured when the Bucs dropped five of the final six games of 2012, with Freeman's inconsistency contributing to the slide. The fifth-year quarterback was benched and subsequently released after an 0-3 start this season, replaced by rookie Mike Glennon, a third-round draft pick who went 4-9 in 13 starts.
The Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007 under former coach Jon Gruden. They haven't won a postseason game since their 2002 run that produced the franchise's only Super Bowl title. Part of the blame for the poor performance rests with Dominik, who was named general manager in 2009 — the year Morris was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Gruden.
Dominik survived Morris' firing after a 4-12 finish two years ago. But in the end, a spotty draft record, the mishandling of Freeman's situation, and the team's 28-52 mark during a five-season tenure as GM became impossible to overlook.
Schiano said whoever follows him as coach will take over a good team. "I'm proud of the culture we developed here," Schiano said. "On the field, I think we're closer than people think."
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