TAMPA — In the past two years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent more than $250 million adding what they thought were finishing pieces to a team they expected to become an NFL playoff participant.
After the return on that investment amounted to 11 wins, 21 losses and no playoff appearances the past two seasons, the Bucs on Monday fired the people managing the expenditures — general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano.
“The results over the past two years have not lived up to our standards and we believe the time has come to find a new direction,’’ Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement.
“Mark has been a valued member of our organization for two decades and we respect the passion he showed for the Buccaneers during his time here. We thank Greg for his hard work and effort the past two seasons, but we feel these moves are necessary in order to achieve our goals.’’
There was no immediate word from the Glazer family regarding possible successors, but quickly there was speculation they might want to bring back some of the executives and coaches who helped build the 2002 Super Bowl team.
Though the team shot down speculation suggesting former general manager Rich McKay, now the president of the Atlanta Falcons, might be up for the general manager’s job, former McKay aids Tim Ruskell and Jerry Angelo could be among the candidates.
The Bucs also might have interest in bringing back former linebackers coach Lovie Smith, who guided the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006 and had an 84-66 record in nine season as the Bears head coach.
Whoever gets the nod will be expected to capitalize on a talent base the Glazers thought underachieved under Schiano, whose second season on the job ended Sunday with a 42-17 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.
That brought an end to a 4-12 season that was rife with problems, including a quarterback controversy that resulted in the benching and release of four-year starter Josh Freeman as well as an outbreak of a dangerous MRSA infection that affected three players.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part (of something) where more has gone wrong,’’ Schiano said during a Monday afternoon news conference at the Renaissance International Plaza Hotel.
“From 17 guys (being placed) on (season-ending) injured reserve to (the Freeman and MRSA sagas) — sometimes you sit back and say this can’t be real, but it was real and being here today is real.’’
Schiano was let go with three years remaining on a guaranteed five-year contract that pays him $3 million a year. He arrived at One Buc Place on Monday prepared to move forward as Bucs coach and has not thought of his next career move.
He has been mentioned as a possible successor for Bill O’Brien at Penn State should O’Brien take an NFL job, possibly with the Houston Texans, but Schiano said he has not acted on that or any other opportunity.
“I’m a little bit still kind of trying to get through today, then I’ll take some time,’’ Schiano said. “I know I’ll lean on my wife and my kids, my family and my faith, to kind of figure out where the next stop is for us.’’
Schiano came to the Bucs in 2012 following an 11-year run as the head coach at Rutgers University, where he transformed a relatively unknown program into one with national prominence and a reputation for developing NFL ready players.
His first task in Tampa was to change the culture in a building where discipline had become lax under former coach Raheem Morris. He walked away saying the success he had in changing that culture was his proudest achievement.
“That was a big undertaking, but again, and I can’t press this enough, my responsibility in the National Football League is to win football games, and we didn’t win enough,’’ Schiano said.
“I want to thank the Glazer family for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a great organization like the Buccaneers and for giving me an opportunity to coach in the National Football League. It was quite an honor, and I enjoyed every day of it.
“We had a great group of players in that locker room and I really have a lot of faith and belief in them. They’re good men, but we didn’t get it done, and I take full responsibility for that. It just didn’t work out.’’
Dominik’s staff of scouts and Schiano’s assistant coaches have all been retained for now, but the dismissals mark the third time in the past five years the Bucs have made a head coaching change.
“You never want to see anybody get fired, so it’s tough to see that,’’ two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “But for me personally I haven’t had any consistency in my career here.
“I’m going on my fifth year and I’ve had three head coaches and six defensive line coaches. So, who do I learn from? What do I keep? I just have to take a little bit from everybody, I guess, and keep rolling with the punches.’’
For Dominik, the firing brought an end to a 19-year run with the Bucs that began in 1995, when he joined the team as a pro personnel assistant. Dominik took over as general manager in 2009, with his first task in replacing Bruce Allen to oversee the dismantling of a team the Glazer family deemed had grown old and slow and rebuild it through the draft.
With little money to spend in the free agency market, Dominik spent three years attempting to build the foundation of a playoff contender primarily through the draft, adding several notable pieces. He brought in McCoy and wide receiver Mike Williams in 2010, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Mason Foster in 2011 and Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David in 2012.
Dominik started to polish that team off by adding Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks in free agency last year and Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson this year, as well as trading for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.
That raised the expectations of not only the Bucs hierarchy but their fans, many of whom began to turn on Schiano and Dominik during an 0-8 start to the 2013 season.
The Bucs were 28-52 in Dominik’s five seasons.
Dominik released a statement thanking the Glazers for the opportunity they gave him and for the friendships he developed during his tenure, saying he believes he left the Bucs “well positioned for success in the future.’’
But as he walked through the building late Monday saying his goodbyes to his staff members and members of the media, Dominik began to choke up and walked away saying, “19 years – I love this team.’’