Comparing Greg Schiano to Raheem Morris: Have the Buccaneers Improved Under Their New Head Coach?
By Leo Howell
Nov 24, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Schiano told season ticket holders at an event earlier this season that the Buccaneers were in a position of “needing” him, which he would later clarify meant the team needed his brand of discipline. But with the team sitting at 4-9 as they prepare for Schiano’s 30th game in charge, did they get what they bargained for in the authoritarian head coach?
Since Schiano decided to bring Raheem Morris into the discussion, as the coach he replaced who left the team in “bad shape” and in need of Schiano’s presence, let’s compare Raheem Morris’ tenure in charge of the Buccaneers to that of Schiano.
The most important and obvious statistic of them all should be the first topic of discussion. And as we stand, Greg Schiano would need to win two of the final three games of the season to match the number of wins earned by Morris in his first two seasons in charge in Tampa Bay.
And considering the obvious upgrades in talent from Morris’ time in Tampa to Schiano’s, I think it’s a fair argument to say Morris has the advantage here, even if he got a bit lucky in terms of schedule compared to the former Rutgers coach. Greg Schiano has the benefit of a veteran, healthy Gerald McCoy rather than Chris Hovan. He also has Vincent Jackson, who is far better than any receiver under Morris.
The talent discrepancies could go on for a while, but most Buccaneer fans acknowledge that the front office didn’t exactly load the roster in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. So it’s fair to say that Schiano’s inability to win football games leaves him trailing the coach he replaced.
Offensive and Defensive Production
December 17, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The two coaches in question in this comparison had opposite effects on the offense upon their arrival. Raheem Morris didn’t have a quarterback when he arrived, and was handed Josh Freeman via the draft and groomed him into a productive starter by year two.
Because of Freeman’s progress, the Bucs saw a leap from 30th to 20th in terms of total yards of offense in Morris’ second season. 20th still isn’t good, but with an improved defense, it was certainly good enough.
For Schiano, the opposite is true. He acquired a quarterback with an inconsistent track record but plenty of talent which he put on display at times during the first year the new head coach had him under center. But Schiano and Freeman could no co-exist in the same locker room, so Schiano (whether the ordeal was his fault or not) forfeited his stability under center and let go of the signal caller.
But despite the struggles on offense for both coaches, they had a similar impact on defense. The yardage rankings for the Tampa Bay defense shot up the charts in year two for both coaches. Morris improved his defense from 27th to ninth, while Schiano has improved his from 23rd to 12th.
The downfall of the Schiano offense is certainly troublesome, but the blame can’t be entirely placed on Schiano. The Josh Freeman situation was damaging to the offense, but it should still be much better than it is. The team leaves plays on the field on a weekly basis, and makes awful mistakes which set them back.
But we’ll call this category a push, for arguments’ sake, because both coaches saw improvements on defense and less-than-stellar offense.
Again, we have a category with similarity between Schiano and Morris.
During Raheem’s first season in Tampa, the Buccaneers finished with the 22nd ranked turnover margin. In his second season, it improved to fifth.
For Greg Schiano’s teams, the turnover margin improved from 12th to second.
Both coaches helped limit mistakes and generate turnovers during their second year in charge, but Schiano did a better job at first of limiting mistakes and turning around a team which was dead last in turnover margin in 2011 in Morris.
Sep 22, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano against the New England Patriots during the second quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Nothing ruins a good defensive plan like a missed tackle. Lining up a stop only to see a runner escape for more yardage ruins even the most well-designed calls on defense.
But missed tackles aren’t only on the players. They’re a reflection of the coaching they receive, and the effort the players are putting forth at executing a basic fundamental of the game.
And since Pro Football Focus began tracking missed tackles and other data in 2008, the Buccaneers have never had more missed stops than they did in 2011. The team missed 10.5 tackles per game, and was otherwise sloppy and ineffective on defense.
So other than this horrific year in which the team fell apart under a lame duck head coach, when have the Buccaneers been at their best as tacklers?
Under Raheem Morris in 2009 and 2010.
Morris’s teams missed 7.25 tackles per game in 2009, and only 5.88 per game in 2010. Compare that to Greg Schiano’s teams, which have missed 7.63 tackles per game and 8.77 per game in his first two seasons.
It doesn’t sound like the Buccaneers are that much more disciplined than they were under the “players’ coach” that came before Schiano. They’re still missing tackles, and that’s allowing well-designed defensive plays and aggressive defensive playcalls to turn into big plays.
Penalties are yet another area where players are the ones making mistakes, but they are also reflecting the coaching and teaching they receive from their coaches.
And Greg Schiano’s teams are being penalized more than Raheem Morris’ ever were.
Morris started off his career with a team penalized only 5.8 times per game in 2009, which ranked 14th (in this case, ranking means “least to most” penalties per game). Things would slip a bit in 2010, falling to 6.2 penalties a game, but he was still fairly consistent. It wasn’t until 2011 when things fell apart, and the Buccaneers were flagged 7.7 times per game and finished 29th in the league in Morris’ final season.
So when Schiano took over, he was able to improve the penalty situation and get the team back toward the middle of the pack, picking up 6.3 penalties per game in 2012. But his team has regressed in 2013, currently sitting 32nd in the NFL in flags per game. The Buccaneers are penalized more than eight times per contest in 2013 under the coach who promised to bring discipline and accountability.
That’s not a good sign for Schiano.
Nothing about Greg Schiano’s second year in charge stands out from anything Raheem Morris did during his time in Tampa Bay. If anything, Schiano’s offensive setback has been damaging to the team, as they’ve been unable to take advantage of their excellent turnover margin.
Which must beg the question for the leadership in Tampa Bay: Is Greg Schiano the right man for the job?
He’s been given more talent and better draft classes from his general manager (who has been steadily building a very good roster since 2009), and yet doesn’t stand out from his predecessor who he proudly proclaimed he would clean up the mess for.
Schiano has done nothing yet to inspire confidence that he’s a capable NFL head coach. And while I like to think I keep an open mind about things, I am not sure there’s anything he can do over the next three games to convince me he’s the leader the Bucs need to get back into the playoff picture.