TAMPA, Fla. — Disgruntled fans showed up at Raymond James Stadium, some carrying placards or wearing brown paper bags over their heads calling for the firing of Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.
It didn’t happen Friday, a day after a lopsided nationally televised loss to the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers dropped the winless Buccaneers to 0-7 for the sixth time in franchise history.
The Bucs have never gone on to win more than three games after losing the first seven to begin a season.
Schiano said after Thursday night’s 31-13 loss that he’s focused solely on trying to turn his struggling team around — not his job.
On Friday, he fended questions about whether he still has the respect and support of his players. The Bucs have lost 12 of 13 games dating to last season and are 7-16 overall since Schiano left Rutgers in January 2012 to take over a team that dropped the final 10 games of 2011.
“Have I lost the locker room? No. Are they listening? Yes. Are we getting everything we need out of them? Well, obviously not because we’re 0-7,” Schiano said. “
“Ultimately we have good guys in that locker room … 61 guys that I believe in, and I really strongly feel they believe in me. Does belief get tested when you have an 0-7 record? Absolutely. … But there’s a lot of football left. We’ve got nine games remaining. We’ll take each one, one at a time.”
Fans chanted “Schiano must go!” in the closing minutes of the latest loss. There has been little indication of where the Glazer family, which owns the team but rarely grants interviews, stands on the embattled coach’s future.
It’s been a tumultuous season ranging from the messy benching and subsequent release of starting quarterback Josh Freeman to an outbreak of MRSA infections in the locker room to a lack of success on the field.
“I visit with our owners all the time. There’s open lines of communication,” Schiano said. “We’re all trying to just get better and do the things that are going to make the organization better.”
Safety Dashon Goldson, one of the team’s two big offseason acquisitions, sat out Thursday night’s game with a knee injury. He said Schiano has not lost the locker room.
“There’s no complaining, there’s no issues. You come in here, it’s a good work environment,” Goldson said.
“He’s taken a lot of scrutiny off the field. These are tough times, and we understand that,” Goldson, an All-Pro last season in San Francisco, said. “But he has a job to do, and we do as players, so we’re just doing what we can to prepare every week and try to win a football game and leave the outside stuff to the outsiders.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a team captain, agreed.
“As long as he’s our coach, we’re going to have respect for him and we’re going to play as hard as can for him,” McCoy said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Turning it around won’t be easy, especially with a rookie at quarterback.
Third-round draft pick Mike Glennon threw for 275 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against the Panthers, but threw the ball 51 times and attempting 43, 43 and 44 passes in his first three starts.
Not a winning formula for a first-year quarterback.
“I think we’ve made some right decisions that made us better. We’ve got to make more. I think we have to look at exactly what Mike is capable (of), because Mike can do a lot of things. (We need to) make sure we’re playing to his strengths in every way because that’s two games in a row now without an interception,” Schiano said.
“At the end of the game we threw the ball on every down. Take that out and just look at the plays before that,” the coach added. “He’s efficient, he’s doing what we ask him to do. When you know you’re going to get that, now you’re going to build around that.”
Schiano said he “totally” understands the frustration of fans upset about the team’s record. He’s not concerned, though, that calls for his dismissal will become a distraction for team moving forward.
“Football players at this level are very intelligent. They understand the business,” Schiano said.
“I think we all realize it’s a performance-based business,” he added. “Players and coaches, we’re paid to win. That’s what it’s about. … We’ve got to get our share.”