TAMPA — Greg Schiano's iron-fisted ways are under attack.
Ever since he was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach last winter, Schiano has used a college-style demeanor to coach men. It put him on treacherous ground that demands winning to stave off rebellion.
The 41-0 debacle Sunday in New Orleans that extended the Bucs' losing streak to four put his methodology on the dartboard.
Fires seemed to be breaking out everywhere.
There was a spat between a player and coach on the sideline that resembled a scene from Jerry Springer, and an anonymous Tampa Bay player quoted on ProFootballTalk.com said his coaches should go back to college.
The Bucs defensive backs continue to look like chestnuts roasted on an open fire, and the quarterback has played like burnt toast for three straight games.
The team looks as if it is regressing, though Schiano emphatically disputes that fact.
"I don't feel like we are. I feel like the understanding of what we are doing is getting better but again it does not show on the field, so if I am someone who is not in the organization I would sit back and say 'Yes, it is not getting better,'" he said.
Schiano dismissed the Saints game as a clunker. He is partly correct. The loss to the hapless Philadelphia Eagles the week before was also a clunker, despite the close score.
To his credit, Schiano maintained his calm demeanor in addressing those issues Monday and showed flexibility by giving the team the day off preceding Tuesday's mandatory off day.
He put his iron fist in the closet, perhaps sensing a backlash.
But December separates the men from the boys in the NFL. You have tons of film on teams and making good adjustments is essential.
Since Doug Martin went on his rampage against the Oakland Raiders, things started to go downhill. The Bucs were very fortunate to win close games over the San Diego Chargers and the Carolina Panthers before hitting their current losing streak.
Schiano points out that all the losses until New Orleans were close.
But close losses don't chase the hangman away. They just keep him from putting the noose around your neck and only give you so much life. If you don't believe it, check with Skip Holtz.
The Bucs' run game stats are fool's gold.
Statistically, they have the No. 1-ranked run defense, but not the best run defense.
New Orleans' pathetic ground game proved it, rushing for 149 yards, and the Atlanta Falcons had some success.
Schiano can survive all that peripheral damage if he wins. But he hasn't done much of that lately, and if there are slackers in the locker room who don't like his dictatorial ways, they are piling up cannon fodder.
The only thing we know for sure is Schiano is safe for next year. And you might as well put Josh Freeman in that category despite a growing population that would like to see the quarterback shipped to the Siberian salt mines.
Coming from 11 years of college football, Schiano is vulnerable to criticism. The biggest one right now is that he is not making the right adjustments and is too stubborn with his insistence of putting maligned cornerbacks in too much man coverage.
And then there is Freeman, thankfully not as bad as Mark Sanchez or Brady Quinn, but someone who will never be mistaken for Brees, Rodgers or Brady.
In the past three weeks, Freeman has completed 58 of 120 passes for four TDs while being picked off five times and sacked five times.
New Orleans was the worst with four interceptions and fumble, but Schiano insisted it's not fair to put all the blame on Freeman.
"I don't think it's one man. I think it's everybody involved. We just need to get better at it because it happened. We turned the ball over five times, four interceptions so regardless of whose fault it is we need to get better at it," Schiano said.
So you can applaud Schiano for backing his quarterback or criticize him for not addressing the real issues with Freeman. Either way, it has become fashionable to bash Freeman, but the Bucs can't get rid of him.
Who are you going to replace him with? Michael Vick?
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.