TAMPA -- After the way the Buccaneers finished last season, it was obvious the team would be coached by someone new in 2012.
Tampa Bay, which surprisingly won 10 games and barely missed the playoffs under Raheem Morris in 2010, foundered last season.
How bad were things for the Buccaneers last year? Not only did the team end 4-12, but did so by losing its final 10 games of the season. Tampa Bay, which went 3-13 in Morris’ first season, turned over the ball 40 times and surrendered a franchise-record 494 points.
The season finale was an embarrassing 45-24 loss to Atlanta — the eighth loss by double digits.
“Last season a lot of things didn’t go our way. A lot of things didn’t go my way,” said quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his third season as the Bucs’ starter.
Before taking over for Jon Gruden in 2009, Morris had never been a head coach at any level.
Morris had only been an NFL defensive coordinator in name only (he was promoted by the Bucs following the 2008 season — then replaced Gruden weeks later).
If the Buccaneers took advantage of Morris’ coaching immaturity — the 35-year-old is now the defensive backs coach for the Redskins — they probably won’t with the new guy.
Although Greg Schiano has never been a head coach in the NFL, the former Rutgers coach has brought a no-nonsense approach to One Buc Place that seemingly had been missing under the old regime.
Tampa Bay not only looked unprepared at times, but the Buccaneers were sloppy and undisciplined as well.
Schiano plans to fix that.
“He’s thorough, organized and is going to bring discipline and hard work,” said USF coach Skip Holtz, who coached against Schiano. “I think he’s going to do a good job. I don’t care if it’s the Bucs, Rutgers or a high school team; he’s very passionate and does a great job as a football coach. I’m glad he’s in Tampa Bay. That was a great hire by the Bucs.”
There was little down time during training camp as Schiano’s approach is every second counts. Players feel like they are more prepared more than before and go into this season feeling that the postseason is within reach despite playing in a tough NFC South.
“This has been a change of pace,” said offensive lineman Davin Joseph, a former All-American at Oklahoma and Hallandale High School. “Things are going quick but they are really stressing the details. We’re working in a different fashion. This has been a change for the better right now. I hope that translates into wins, but we’re all real confident right now.”
Joseph hopes Schiano brings stability to the Buccaneers. For Joseph, Schiano is his third head coach in his seven seasons with the organization.
Schiano, who was defensive coordinator for the Bears from 1996-98, spent 11 seasons at Rutgers after leaving Butch Davis’ staff at the University of Miami in 2000 after two seasons. Davis, fired from North Carolina last summer, is working for Schiano as a special assistant.
This is not the first rebuild by Schiano. When he left Miami for Rutgers, he took over one of the worst programs in major college football.
Schiano turned the Scarlet Knights around and won close to 60 games over his past seven seasons at the Big East school.
Although the Buccaneers initially tried to hire Oregon’s Chip Kelly, general manager Mark Dominik said Schiano is the right guy to build the Bucs back up.
“You choose a football coach based on what he’s been able to maximize with what he’s got,” Dominik said. “I feel that Rutgers football is very impressive right now. That’s all due to Greg Schiano in my opinion.”
Said Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “He did a great job with the Rutgers program without some of the opportunities that some other programs that he was going against had. But he competed really well in that conference and against those teams. I’ve always been impressed with the way his teams performed.”
For the Buccaneers to turn things around, Freeman is going to have to play better than he did last season. When Tampa Bay won 10 games in 2010, Freeman was consistent and managed games well — tossing six interceptions and 25 touchdowns.
Freeman, who has slimmed down, has had his moments in camp this summer. He is the first to admit he doesn’t want a repeat performance from last year.
“Moving forward, I think we’ve accomplished a lot of our goals in the preseason,” Freeman said. “We’re getting better. It’s all about execution and that’s what we are working on.”