TAMPA, Fla. — This was a memorable Monday at One Buc Place, possibly a landmark one if cornerback Darrelle Revis helps make Tampa Bay a playoff contender or more, and coach Greg Schiano left little mystery about where he stands following the Bucs’ ability to secure the game’s best defensive back.
He no longer had to be coy, speak in coded language like, “If we have an opportunity to get better, we’re going to do it,” or show restraint when it came to discussing the Buccaneers’ top offseason target, which cost them their 13th overall pick this year and a third- or fourth-round selection in 2014,
It’s little surprise, but Schiano and Bucs general manager Mark Dominik revealed that they stayed in close contact throughout the process to land Revis, who signed a six-year, $96 million deal, only seven months after sustaining a serious ACL tear in his left knee.
Until its close, Schiano became a face of the process from greeting Revis at the Tampa International Jet Center on Sunday during the player’s arrival from New Jersey to telling the Bucs’ newest star, “Welcome to the team,” before the two hugged when medical checks had cleared. Schiano knew this day was large for him, for his franchise, for his vision.
“Mark and I communicate on everything,” Schiano said. “I think that’s the best thing about this first year (together) is that we were constantly meeting together and talking together . . . Certainly, we both felt strongly that this was the best thing for our football team. Otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here, and we wouldn’t have suggested it to the Glazer family.”
The possibility of luring Revis was rumored for months. Now that the trade has happened, the NFL’s worst secondary last year (it surrendered a dreadful 297.4 yards passing per game) suddenly appears much more imposing.
Revis joins physical veteran safety Dashon Goldson, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, who signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal in March. Revis and Goldson will certainly influence Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick from last year, who had 88 tackles and one interception as a rookie. It’s possible that Ronde Barber, a 16-year defensive back, could return as well.
In some ways, Schiano and Revis have come full circle. Schiano, then in his fourth season as Rutgers coach, was on the sideline on Oct. 23, 2004, to witness Revis’ first college interception, at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field during a 41-17 Panthers victory. Since then, their paths have diverged – Revis went to the New York Jets and became a four-time Pro Bowl player, one of his generation’s best; meanwhile, Schiano earned six bowl appearances in seven years with the Scarlet Knights, before the Bucs called prior to the 2012 campaign – and now both will be joined in an attempt to lead a franchise to its first playoff berth since 2007.
Schiano wanted this deal to improve his chances in the pass-strong NFC South, the division of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. He got it. Now, he and Dominik will be judged by the results of it.
“It’s significant,” Dominik said, when asked about Schiano’s role in the deal. “He’s the head football coach of this team. He has a plan in how he sees or how he views to utilize a player. Certainly, we talk about all these kind of acquisitions . . . After we got out of the training room (following Revis’ physical Sunday) . . . Greg and I went into a room and talked. Then I called the owners. But we made a decision together.”
That decision will be evaluated in time. Revis’ contract, which includes no guaranteed money, makes him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive back in history. It’s a high reward following a dramatic exit from the Northeast, after earning 325 tackles and 19 interceptions in six years with the Jets. Some caution, however, can be excused given the severity of his knee injury.
Adrian Peterson, of all examples, surfaced in Revis’ introduction Monday, and the cornerback quickly separated his situation from the one overcome by the Minnesota Vikings running back. Yes, Peterson was elite, even historic last season in his return from ACL and MCL tears in his left knee. But Revis made clear, with sharp words, that he has personal motivations for his first season with Tampa Bay.
“I don’t have anything to prove to the New York Jets,” said Revis, who will face his former team in Week 1 at MetLife Stadium. “I have nothing to prove to anybody. I know my expectations as a player . . . It really doesn’t matter what other people think. I don’t have a chip for the New York Jets. I have a chip because I want to get back out on the field and play ball.”
From Schiano’s perspective, that’s all he needs Revis to do. Play ball. Be elite. Be Revis. Help make the Bucs contenders in a division where offensive threats are many and the margin for error is small.
That’s easier written than done, of course, but the possibility of the Bucs turning their secondary from a glaring weakness to strength is there. Recalling experience coaching against the cornerback, Schiano said, “I know that he can do everything we ask our corners to do and more. I’m very excited.”
The answer was fitting. It was the day’s theme at One Buc Place, after all: Excitement, anticipation, perhaps some mystery about how Revis’ time here will go. (Schiano made clear Revis’ health would be monitored and that he would be ready to play in Week 1.) Near the end of the address, when all those topics had been discussed, Revis was asked how important it is for him to be a great player.
“Am I not a great player?” Revis said, gazing blankly ahead.
The question was repeated.
“I think I am a great player,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of things in this league . . . I feel like I’m a great player in this league.”
Nearby, Schiano looked on pleased. The coach and an entire franchise are betting on him to be great again.