Still, players seemed impressed with the way Schiano held the team together, insisting right up until the end that the coach never lost the locker room.
"In times like that you see a lot of guys crumble, a lot of guys break. You never saw a different attitude with him," McCoy said. "... He's the most consistent thing in the building, I will give him that."
Schiano was hired in January 2012, leaving Rutgers to take over a team that ended its final 10 games under Raheem Morris on a 10-game losing streak. He inherited one the NFL's worst defenses, but also a young quarterback in Freeman, who won 10 games in his first full season as a starter and became the franchise's first 4,000-yard passer in Schiano's first year in Tampa Bay.
But Freeman's relationship with Schiano soured when the Bucs dropped five of the final six games of 2012, with Freeman's inconsistency contributing to the slide. The fifth-year quarterback was benched and subsequently released after an 0-3 start this season, replaced by rookie Mike Glennon, a third-round draft pick who went 4-9 in 13 starts.
The Bucs have not made the playoffs since 2007 under former coach Jon Gruden. They haven't won a postseason game since their 2002 run that produced the franchise's only Super Bowl title.
Part of the blame for the poor performance rests with Dominik, who was named general manager in 2009 -- the year Morris was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Gruden.
Dominik survived Morris' firing after a 4-12 finish two years ago. But in the end, a spotty draft record, the mishandling of Freeman's situation, and the team's 28-52 mark during a five-season tenure as GM became impossible to overlook.
Schiano said whoever follows him as coach will take over a good team.
"I'm proud of the culture we developed here," Schiano said. "On the field, I think we're closer than people think."