The Barclays Premier League is growing in popularity in the United States, despite being a soccer league, which is a sport many Americans scoff at or have no desire to watch. But even if you are one of the growing minority of Americans who love “the beautiful game” from England, you still might not know much about Swansea City.
The Swans, as they’re otherwise known, hail from Wales, and have followed a fantastic path to their status as defending League Cup champions and middle of the road finishers in one of the toughest leagues in Europe, despite one of the smallest wage bills in the league. According to the Guardian, they paid their players three to six times fewer than their biggest competitors in 2011-2012, yet finished in the middle of the pack over a grueling 38 match season.
A decade ago, Swansea City was on the verge of dropping out of the professional leagues in England, and established a new identity before rising up the leagues and up the standings before reaching the top of the top, and finding themselves on the same field as Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City every week. Their new identity focused on a fluid, creative gameplan which featured lots of short passing and interchanging positions with players allowed to roam about and get into good positions to help their team, while still managing to maintain a good defensive posture.
When the Buccaneers brought in Greg Schiano, they did so to attempt to develop their own new identity after an abysmal season under former coach Raheem Morris. Morris allowed the team to get away from him, and lost total control over a team lacking in talent.
So Schiano was brought in to institute a new era of Buccaneer football with stricter management and tougher leadership. And through his first year and a game, it appeared from the outside that Schiano was doing his job well in that regard.
But an article from Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report on Monday shed some light on the shortcomings of Schiano’s management style, including an apparent mismanagement of basic scheduling procedures every week.
Reynolds also indicates that he believes the way the team micromanages his quarterback has led to failure. Here’s a quote from the article:
It’s amazing how Freeman used to be a 62-percent passer before all the micromanaging started last year.
Wear a knee brace. Don’t scramble. Only throw to this receiver. Do this. Don’t do that.
That’s one of the key differences between the Buccaneers and Swansea City. Swansea City established an identity of creative freedom, allowing players who are truly the best at what they do to roam free and make plays against allegedly superior opponents. Professional athletes are a rare blend of natural ability, fantastic knowledge and awareness about their sport, and years and years of hard work and training. Why put them in a box?
You can argue that this strategy has worked in the past, as Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin have both won Super Bowls using what seems to be a largely micromanaging style.
But there comes a point where trying to force the best athletes in the world into a specific role they’re not particularly well suited for is counterproductive.
Josh Freeman was known as a slightly mobile quarterback with a strong arm and a work-in-progress accuracy and NFL IQ in his early years, and as Reynolds mentioned, he’s been relegated to a pocket passer who stands in and takes sacks rather than following his instinctual desire to move his feet, cut the field in half, and make great throws on the run.
But over in Wales, Swansea City features formerly unheralded striker Michu who is allowed to roam all over the field, and it turned a bargain signing into one of the top goal scorers in the best soccer league in the world last year.
The Buccaneers’ defensive line seems ripe with talent, but can’t generate pressure on the quarterback thanks to stunts and blitzes that draw the ire of fans and experts in the media.
Swansea City have a line of defenders you don’t know the names of, but they band together to prevent goals in a loaded division of talented players, and also to get the ball moving forward and to create attacks.
The Buccaneers have too much talent to be managed by someone who can’t put that talent to good use. So if the Buccaneers fail to succeed this season with the fantastic roster assembled by Mark Dominik, it’s clear that there needs to be a sweeping change in leadership on the sidelines.
Because if a team that isn’t even from England can bring a batch of low-budget players into England’s biggest league and find success by allowing players to be creative and live up to their immense talent, the Buccaneers should be able to do the same with their athletic quarterback, hard-working running back, terrific receivers, dominant defensive tackle, hard-nosed linebackers, and lock-down defensive backs.
And if Schiano truly can’t handle the basic managing of schedules and things of that nature, change should come sooner than later. You have to practice what you preach, and that locker room will get away from Schiano in a hurry if he can’t get his act together and get his own toes on the line.