THE GAMES — Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Coaches are hired to be fired in the NFL, but that doesn't mean a franchise isn't hoping for a lengthy shelf life in between what is an almost-the-inevitable denouement.
That said, every once in a while you will see a hire that makes you ask: why bother with the exercise in futility in between?
That's the way many of us felt when Greg Schiano brought his contrived my-way- or-the-highway tough-man act to central Florida and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It may or may not be fair, but from Day 1 Schiano was "Charlie College" in a roomful of professionals, the former Rutgers coach who orders his players to dive at the opposition in a victory formation.
"I talked to guys on the Buccaneers this summer (and I asked), 'What's up with the quarterback kneel-down thing, where you have to dive at the legs?'" former NFL player and current analyst Ross Tucker said on NBC Sports Network last month. "They just shook their head. When you ask NFL players to do things that they know is bogus, that they know is bush league, that's not a good thing."
It's not but it's also something that is a real easy fix for anyone in touch with reality. Simply learn from your mistake and move on.
Schiano, though, perhaps obsessed with the aforementioned tough guy act has only doubled down by continuing not only a needless tactic but a useless one as well.
When a caller on his weekly radio show phoned in to call Schiano's behavior "bush league" after Tampa Bay's Week 4 loss to Arizona, Schiano got his back up.
"When it's a one-score opportunity, and especially a field goal opportunity and there's time left to do it, that's part of our beliefs," Schiano said. "And guys can disagree with it, call it, you know, there's no bush league to it. You know it's coming. I'd like people to quit complaining, and that's what we're going to do, and get ready for it."
That kind of thinking offers you a look into the psyche of a coach in over his head at this level, desperately trying to defend the indefensible and a reputation which not only doesn't exist -- it never existed.
Teams do know it's coming, they are ready for it and Schiano ends up mocked and derided by just about everyone, including some of his own players who are embarrassed to follow the beliefs of someone they respect so little.
The stark truth is Schiano only got a sniff as an NFL coach because he is Bill Belichick's friend and the world's best football coach vouched for him.
Schiano was a good college coach, but he finished his career with the Scarlet Knights 20 games under .500 in conference play (28-48), and at no point during his tenure at Rutgers was the program even within earshot of the big dogs.
So, while Belichick's clout could get Schiano a job, it can't help him keep it and we are already in the midst the final death throes of what will be a rather short-lived and ugly stint in Tampa.
When the obituary is finally written, Schiano's handling of the Josh Freeman situation will be front and center, but the actual details of Freeman's downfall with the Bucs are just the white noise covering up the larger problem -- the fact Schiano is an ineffectual leader in a position which demands leadership at every turn.
NFL players union executive DeMaurice Smith stated Tuesday that the union is looking to investigate if the Buccaneers leaked information about Freeman's inclusion in an NFL Drug Program.
In a statement, Freeman said that he has never tested positive for any illegal drugs. He does, though, take medication for ADHD and said that he accidentally took Ritalin instead of Adderrall a year ago, which triggered a positive test.
As a result of the test, Freeman was placed in Stage 1 of the league's drug program and submitted to frequent drug tests.
Schiano was asked by reporters Tuesday if he was the source of the leak and said, "Absolutely not," according to the reports.
"I know what I've done. I'm 100 percent comfortable with my behavior, 100 percent," he said.
Whether Schiano actually leaked the information himself is inconsequential. Someone in the Bucs organization -- more than likely with the coach's knowledge -- did.
Playing politician can't help Schiano now, but acting like the adult in the room could have.
It's pretty clear Freeman is a kid who lacks leadership skills himself and if you're being kind, has a shoddy work ethic. Schiano had every right to move on from Freeman and insert Mike Glennon, but he should own it. By undercutting Freeman at every turn, he comes across as a transparent hack trying to save face.
Players understand better than anyone else that Freeman wasn't willing to carry his own water and do what was needed in order to be successful. But, throwing him under the bus publicly only hurts his trade value and makes the organization look petty.
A leader is at his best when people barely know he exists. When the work is done and the goals reached, the very people he led will think they did it themselves.
This is not about Schiano's bluster or the fact he is not well liked. At its core, leadership is defined by actions and results.
Schiano's actions are bush league on every level and his results -- the Bucs have lost nine of 10 dating back to last season -- speak for themselves.
The inevitable end is already here.
NFL POWER POLL
The Sports Network's updated NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams, can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2cjp9l8 WEEK 5
Buffalo (2-2) at Cleveland (2-2), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
LINE: Browns by 4
THE SKINNY: The nation will get to see some of the NFL's best young stars when Buffalo, led by rookies E.J. Manuel and Kiko Alonso, visit a Cleveland team highlighted by Jordan Cameron and Barkevious Mingo.
The Bills evened their record at 2-2 with a 23-20 win over Baltimore last Sunday after Manuel threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first rookie QB to defeat the defending Super Bowl champions in September.
"It was a huge win for our team," said Manuel, who, along with rookie head coach Doug Marrone, became the first rookie quarterback and head coach tandem to defeat the champs in a decade.
The Browns, meanwhile, have won two in a row behind new QB Brian Hoyer, including last week's 17-6 win over rival Cincinnati. Cameron had 10 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals and his five touchdown receptions on the season are tied for the most ever by an AFC tight end in September.
"We're playing really well," said Mingo, who has a sack in each of his first three NFL games. "We have to keep it up and grow and learn."
PREDICTION: Browns 17, Bills 16
New Orleans (4-0) at Chicago (3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
THE SKINNY: The red-hot Drew Brees takes the unbeaten Saints into the Second City. New Orleans is 4-0 for the first time since 2009, when the Saints started 13-0 and won Super Bowl XLIV.
In the team's 38-17 win over Miami during Week 4, Brees completed 30-of-39 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns with a 144.5 passer rating, tying two of his own NFL records with his ninth consecutive 300-yard passing game and his 10th in a row with 25-plus completions.
"He's playing at a really sharp level," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "He did a good job with his progressions and protected the football. He's been outstanding."
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is tied for the NFL lead with six receiving touchdowns -- the most ever by a tight end in September -- and his 458 receiving yards rank second in the league.
The Bears and their opportunistic defense are tied for first in the NFC North and will look to rebound from last week's loss at Detroit. Chicago has 10 interception-return touchdowns since the start of the 2012 season, the most in the NFL, and have scored three defensive touchdowns so this season.
PREDICTION: Saints 27, Bears 21
New England (4-0) at Cincinnati (2-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bengals by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Pats have won 13 of 14 regular-season games dating back to last season and will be aiming for their seventh consecutive road victory. They will have to do it without Pro-Bowl run-stuffer Vince Wilfork, who underwent a successful procedure Tuesday to repair a torn right Achilles' tendon he sustained in the team's win over Atlanta in Week 4.
Tom Brady, who is 4-0 in his career versus the Bengals, had thrown a TD in 52 consecutive games, just two off Drew Brees' NFL record, and "Tom Terrific" needs just two more TD throws to pass Fran Tarkenton (342) for the fourth most in NFL history.
Cincy is coming off a bad loss to AFC North Division-rival Cleveland, but has won five of its past six at home.
PREDICTION: Bengals 21, Patriots 20
Detroit (3-1) at Green Bay (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 7
THE SKINNY: The much-improved Lions could be running into an bye-week buzz saw in a well-rested Green Bay team. The Packers, who have won 14 of their last 15 against Detroit, had an extra week to prepare and that may be too much for the Lions to overcome.
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy is 13-1 in his career against the Motor City Kitties while QB Aaron Rodgers is a perfect 8-0, completing 169-of-246 (68.7 percent) for 2,239 yards with 18 TDs versus four interceptions
Lions RB Reggie Bush ranks second in the NFL with 144.3 scrimmage yards per game after running for 139 yards with a TD and adding 34 receiving yards against Chicago last weekend.
PREDICTION: Packers 31, Lions 24
Seattle (4-0) at Indianapolis (3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Seahawks are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history after overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a 23-20 overtime win at Houston in Week 4. The Colts, on the other hand, improved to 3-1 with a 37-3 win in Jacksonville and have won their past two games by a combined score of 64-10.
Taking center stage in this weekend's showdown will be each team's second-year starting quarterback.
Seattle's Russell Wilson, who was drafted in the third round (No. 75 overall) in 2012, has won 15 of his first 20 starts. He has passed for 3,905 yards with 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 99.1 passer rating in his career.
"He's done some pretty extraordinary things," said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll about his young QB. "He can do special things. There are just not very many kids that are as well-prepared to take on the workload and the stress of this and all the pressure that comes with it."
The Colts' Andrew Luck, who was the No. 1 overall selection in 2012, is 14-6 as a starter and matched Hall of Famer John Elway for the most wins in his first 20 starts by a QB selected No. 1 overall since the 1970 merger.
"He's such a mature kid and he understands the game," says Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano. "He prepares so well, and his focus is unbelievable. We know the physical talent is there. He's extremely intelligent. The great thing about Andrew is that he's unflappable. He's gotten better and he's his own critic."
PREDICTION: Colts 24, Seahawks 23
Baltimore (2-2) at Miami (3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Dolphins by 3
THE SKINNY: A pair of AFC contenders coming off bad losses meet in South Beach as ex-Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe gets a crack at his old teammates when reigning Baltimore visits the Dolphins.
Ellerbe, a keep cog in the Ravens' Super Bowl winning defense a year ago, left for Miami in free agency and leads the Dolphins with 38 tackles this season. He will be trying to short-circuit Joe Flacco, who is coming off a career- worst five-interception performance in a loss at Buffalo. In two career games versus Miami, though, Flacco has 498 passing yards with three TDs and no INTs with a 125.3 passer rating.
The Dolphins, who were eaten alive by New Orleans on Monday night, have won three straight at home.
PREDICTION: Ravens 24, Dolphins 21
Philadelphia (1-3) at New York Giants (0-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 2
THE SKINNY: The desperate Giants shoot for their first win against a Philadelphia team, which has dropped three straight. The Eagles, though, have won seven of their past nine against "Big Blue" and Michael Vick has won in 10 of his last 12 NFC East starts, compiling a 99.7 passer rating in those games. Philadelphia RB LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 468 rushing yards and 608 scrimmage yards. For the Giants, QB Eli Manning is set to start his 140th consecutive game, the longest active streak by a signal caller in the NFL.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Eagles 24
Jacksonville (0-4) at St. Louis (1-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Rams by 11 1/2
THE SKINNY: The woeful Jags could get a boost with the return of WR Justin Blackmon, who was suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Blackmon will team with Cecil Shorts to give embattled QB Blaine Gabbert, who has thrown for five TDs and no INTs in his last five road starts, a pair of solid options. The Rams, meanwhile, need a running game, having managed just 189 yards on the ground in four games.
PREDICTION: Rams 21, Jaguars 13
Kansas City (4-0) at Tennessee (3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Chiefs by 3
THE SKINNY: The NFL's top two teams in turnover differential will meet at LP Field. Kansas City (plus-nine) has forced an AFC-best 12 takeaways and Tennessee (plus-nine) is the only team in the league without a turnover.
The Chiefs, who knocked off the New York Giants, 31-7, last weekend, are 4-0, the second team in NFL history to win its first four games after finishing the previous season with at least 14 losses (1980 Detroit).
"Awesome. It's great," Chiefs QB Alex Smith said of the team's start. "The entire focus was getting the first win. It's a week-to-week thing. You can't start looking down the line."
The Titans have won two in a row, including a 38-13 home victory over the New York Jets this past Sunday. Tennessee forced four turnovers in the victory, including two interceptions by cornerback Alterraun Verner and a forced fumble recovered in the end zone by defensive tackle Karl Klug.
"The work still isn't done," Verner said. "That's just the first quarter of the season. We have a lot more football to play."
The triumph was tempered a bit, however, by the right hip injury suffered by QB Jake Locker. A second MRI taken on the hip confirmed no major damage, but he will miss a few weeks of action.
"The area will need time to heal and strengthen, but he won't require surgery and he has already begun a rehab routine for both his hip and knee," the team said in a statement. "We certainly would expect him to miss a few weeks, but we are encouraged by the news."
PREDICTION: Chiefs 20, Titans 14
Carolina (1-2) at Arizona (2-2), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: Carolina has won seven of its past eight against the Cardinals and QB Cam Newton made his NFL debut against Arizona, throwing for 422 pass yards and accounting for three TDs (two passing, one rushing), a coming out party that has helped Newton become the only player in league history with 8,000- plus passing yards (8,497), 40-plus passing TDs (46), 1,500- plus rushing yards (1,545) and 20-plus rush TDs (23) in his first 35 games.
Cards QB Carson Palmer has never lost to the Panthers (2-0) and the team should get a boost from the return of star inside linebacker Daryl Washington, who was suspended for the first four games after violating the league's substance abuse policy.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 20, Panthers 17
Denver (4-0) at Dallas (2-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 7
THE SKINNY: The Broncos have won 15 consecutive regular-season games dating back to 2012, the longest active streak in the NFL, and they have won them all by at least seven points, the second-longest streak in NFL history (16 games, 1941-42 Chicago).
Denver star QB Peyton Manning already has 16 TD passes this season, the most ever through Week 4 of any season, while the team has scored an NFL-best 179 points, the second-highest total through the first four games in league history (183 points, 1966 Dallas.)
The Cowboys enter Week 5 leading the NFC East despite their 2-2 record and a loss in San Diego last weekend. Dallas QB Tony Romo connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant for two touchdowns in that game. Since the start of the 2012 season, Bryant leads the NFL with 16 receiving TDs.
"We want to be a contender," said Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, who had a 52- yard interception-return touchdown against the Chargers. "We want to be a team that can win week in and week out."
PREDICTION: Broncos 34, Cowboys 24
Houston (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 7
THE SKINNY: Houston will try to bounce back from its collapse against Seattle by taking it to the Seahawks' main rival in the NFC West, the 49ers. The Texans have won three straight on the road against NFC foes and QB Matt Schaub passed for 264 yards and two TDs in his lone start against San Francisco. Meanwhile, since becoming the 49ers starter, Colin Kaepernick is 5-1 at home with a 104.2 passer rating.
PREDICTION: 49ers 31, Texans 24
San Diego (2-2) at Oakland (1-3), Sunday, 11:35 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 4
THE SKINNY: Sunday's Raiders-Chargers game was moved back seven hours due to the Oakland Athletics' playoff game on Saturday night. The high-powered Chargers are averaging 27 points per game in 2013, the second-best mark in the AFC, and revitalized QB Philip Rivers joined John Hadl (201) and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts (254) as the only players in franchise history with 200 TD passes when he tossed for three against Dallas last week.
The news wasn't all good for San Diego, however, as the team placed both wide receiver Malcom Floyd (neck) and outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (torn quadriceps) on injured reserve.
On the other side, the Raiders rank third in the AFC in rushing yards with 550 and could get Terrelle Pryor back from a concussion.
PREDICTION: Chargers 27, Raiders 14
New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta (1-3), Monday, 8:40 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 9 1/2
THE SKINNY: The 1-3 Falcons figure to be ornery when they face rookie QB Geno Smith and the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." Atlanta is banged-up and coming off a rare home loss to New England. Falcons QB Matt Ryan, who passed for a career-high 421 yards last weekend, has won 10 of his past 13 starts against AFC teams and is 34-6 in home starts during his career.
The Jets figure to be without WRs Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion), so the running game and Bilal Powell figure to be a key. Powell has 266 scrimmage yards in his past two games.
PREDICTION: Falcons 30, Jets 13