Dave Ford

Year Two Is Critical For Sophomore Schiano

Created on May. 31, 2013 8:00 PM EST

There will be no sophomore slump for Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano.

In fact, he has no choice but to succeed. In today’s NFL, coaches are expected to win almost immediately, regardless of the roster they inherit or how they fare in the draft. The days of three-year plans are gone forever, and Schiano finds himself entering the 2013 season squarely in the sights of the “What have you done for me lately?” mantra.

Fair or not, the Bucs will be expected by their fans to bounce back from what can honestly be categorized as an underachieving 7-9 record in 2012. Considering only three of the team’s nine losses were by more than eight points – 41-0 to New Orleans, 28-13 to St. Louis and 31-23 to Denver – the Bucs could have and should have made a run at the playoffs. And speaking of the playoffs, not to sound like Jim Mora in his Indianapolis days, but Tampa Bay boasts a seemingly weak schedule in 2013. Only four of the 13 teams the Bucs will face made a playoff appearance last season (San Francisco, Seattle, New England and Atlanta).

While Schiano was given some slack in his rookie season when the Bucs started 1-3, that will not be the case this year. Not to mention, if the team falls into another devastating late-season losing streak like it did in 2012 (five consecutive), Schiano and his staff can bank on getting a pink slip the first day after the regular season is over. But the hard-nosed defensive coach can’t step onto the field and make plays.

He has a mere handful of playmakers returning, including second-year star running back Doug Martin (1,454 yards, 11 touchdowns) and No. 1 wide receiver Vincent Jackson (72 catches, 1,384 yards, eight TDs) on offense. Defensively, however, the Bucs are now missing nearly 90 percent of their production from 2012 – defensive end Michael Bennett (team leader with nine sacks) left for Seattle, and Ronde Barber (led the team with four interceptions and ranked third with 92 total tackles), who retired after 16 years with the franchise.

There are also two players who could make or break the 2013 season for Schiano and the Bucs: fifth-year quarterback Josh Freeman and new cornerback Darrelle Revis. Though he would never admit it publicly, Schiano is depending on the offensive/defensive combo to bring Tampa Bay back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

In NFL years, that might as well be forever.

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