Commentary | Schiano can make his case if Bucs beat 49ers

December 15, 2013 


Greg Schiano has been on the campaign trail for the past month.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach has been making the rounds, even speaking to talk show hosts who have been among his biggest critics.

Schiano is campaigning for office and wants to keep the one he has at One Buc Place.

The electorate that will decide his fate is the Glazer family, which owns the team. But it doesn't hurt if you get some of the talking heads to push for your cause, and a content fan base helps.

This wouldn't be necessary if the Bucs didn't start the season 0-8. And no matter how much you want to blame Josh Freeman for everything wrong in the world, there is a limit.

But Schiano has an out: He can beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the Bucs' last home game of the year.

It would put an attractive ribbon around a 5-9 record and give many Schiano critics a dose of amnesia.

The Bucs have won four of their past five games against mediocre to lesser competition, but San Francisco is the big prize. A win and Schiano could walk into the Glazers' office thumping his chest.

It won't be easy. The Bucs have struggled against mobile quarterbacks. The 49ers receiving corps is healthy these days with Michael Crabtree back, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been on somewhat of a resurgence after struggling earlier in the season operating San Francisco's read-option offense.

"They keep creating different things with the pistol, and the zone-read-option game, so it's a similar cat and mouse with everything in football," Schiano said. "If you look back at their season last year, it wasn't until late in the year and then the playoff run where it really exploded. I think they pick their spots when they want him carrying the football and when they're going to risk injury, but when he does he's very effective."

Bobby Rainey holds the key to whether Tampa Bay has a legitimate chance. If the running back is stopped then, it's all on the Bucs defense, unless you believe in Mike (as in Glennon).

San Francisco and Harbaugh are what Schiano and the Bucs aspire to be.

The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and have the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL. The Bucs are 30th in total offense.

Schiano has been singing the highest praises of the 49ers, making it seem they are flying in from Mt. Olympus without a plane.

It's not a novel strategy. If you win, you can say you just climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. If you lose, well you weren't supposed to win.

It seems unlikely Rainey will put up big numbers, which leaves the fate of this game with Glennon, who is coming off back-to-back misery against Carolina and Buffalo.

Last week against the Bills, he completed 9 of 25 passes for a paltry 90 yards with two picks.

San Francisco has one of the fiercest pass rushes in the league and usually does it without blitzing, which Glennon has not handled well.

When blitzed, Glennon is completing just 51 percent of his passes for 5.3 yards per attempt. When not blitzed, he completes 66 percent for 7.2 yards per throw.

If San Francisco puts Glennon in scramble mode using just its front four, this could be long day for Tampa Gay, and its chance of winning will rest solely on its defense, which some might argue it does anyway.

This game is more important to Glennon than Schiano. The rookie is auditioning for future employment, whether it is with Tampa Bay or elsewhere, and the past two games hasn't won him any endorsements.

Schiano can lose this game and the last two in St. Louis and New Orleans and keep his job as long as the scores are respectable, and even then it probably won't matter.

The coach said there is no miracle behind the Bucs' recent 4-1 surge.

"I think it's just sticking together, everybody just staying to their job, not pointing fingers and sticking together," he said.

San Francisco's defense has been exceptional in its past six games, allowing just a shade more than 13 points per game. The 49ers have won 8 of their past 10 games, given up a high of 23 points in a loss to New Orleans and held five opponents to 11 points or fewer.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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