TAMPA — Remember when the Da'Quan Bowers saga was the biggest issue plaguing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
That was one quarterback controversy, three MRSA infections and seven agonizing losses ago.
It seems so much longer than that. Seems like years. Yet, this year, this lost season, isn't even half over.
Nine games remain. What everyone wants to know is how many of them Greg Schiano will be allowed to coach.
It's a relevant question. Schiano's Bucs have lost 12 of their past 13 games dating to last year, including seven straight at home. Only the inaugural 1976-77 teams coached by John McKay put together a longer home losing streak (13).
Funny, but many of the same fans who are now calling for an end to the Schiano era were calling for an end to McKay's. Remember “Throw McKay in the Bay?” It has been replaced by “Fire Schiano.''
Clearly the former had more of a ring to it.
Not to worry. It appears a disgruntled fan will have more time to come up with a snappier slogan, for Schiano remains the coach.
Many are wondering why. After all, the Glazer family that owns the team has fired far more successful, more established coaches for doing far more. See: Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden.
Dungy was fired after leading the Bucs to three straight playoff appearances. Gruden was let go after posting back-to-back 9-7 seasons.
So, how is it that Schiano has apparently been given a pass? The Glazers aren't saying, but there might be some valid reasons.
First of all, Schiano does not appear to have lost the locker room, as many have tried to suggest. You can tell by the way the Bucs are playing on the field.
A coach who has lost his locker room won't get his players to play hard on the field, but the Bucs are still playing hard. They're not playing smart, but even at the end of Thursday night's 31-13 loss to Carolina, they were playing hard. They didn't quit.
And Bucs fans know quit. They saw it repeatedly down the stretch during the Raheem Morris era three years ago.
So far, nothing this team has done has looked like that.
And this team has done some head-scratching things. Lavonte David's late hit on Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the season opener was just the first in what has been an endless string of mind-boggling foibles. The list is far too long to detail here, and while it's convenient to blame them on poor coaching, the players who committed those mistakes deserve much of the blame.
Was it Schiano who dropped the perfectly thrown third-down pass that quarterback Mike Glennon delivered to Vincent Jackson on the third play of the game against Carolina?
Was it Schiano who unleashed the two uncatchable third-down shotgun snaps that derailed a pair of potential scoring drives while they were still close enough to the Panthers to beat them?
Was it Schiano who muffed the late third-quarter punt that was the game's only turnover and the one that Carolina quickly turned into the touchdown that all but put that game out of reach?
Sooner or later, someone will have to answer for this long lost season, and it very well might be Schiano. He succeeded in changing the culture inside the building last year, but has yet to develop a winning culture.
How long does he have left to do that? It's hard to say. It could be a week, it could be nine weeks.
The Glazers have always been very patient, but this season is fast becoming the biggest test of everyone's patience, perhaps even theirs.