At face value, new head coach Greg Schiano has the core values the floundering Tampa Bay Buccaneers badly need.
He espouses discipline, accountability, trust, the concept of “The Buccaneer Way.”
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He is tough, relentless and a proven motivator.
All of the above traits helped Schiano pull Rutgers University from the depths of football futility to a level of national respect and consistency — and convinced the Bucs’ brain trust that he was their man for the job last Thursday.
The lingering question is what took them so long — and how their plodding 24-day search, conducted without any sense of urgency and shrouded in unnecessary secrecy, will hamper Schiano as goes about the vital business of building his coaching staff.
The Glazer Family and general manager Mark Dominik operated as if they were in a league of their own in the days and weeks after Raheem Morris was fired Jan. 2., rather than in a competition against a handful of other clubs playing the same game.
They embarked on an “exhaustive” hunt through the ranks of recycled NFL head coaches and some promising offensive and defensive coordinators — then threw a pair of Hail Marys with the failed attempt to land Oregon’s Chip Kelly out of the blue and the unexpected connection five days later with Schiano.
Clearly, the ultimately ill-advised impetuousness the Glazers displayed in hiring Morris as a replacement to Jon Gruden in January 2009 made them more cautious. But the problem is that their snail’s pace search, wandering all over the map while other teams moved with far more focus and speed, has put Schiano in a hole from the start.
St. Louis, Miami, Indianapolis and Kansas City all acted more quickly to replace fired head coaches, and all got shot at the best available assistants on the market before the Bucs.
This doesn’t mean that Schiano won’t wind up with a competent staff; it just means it’s going to be more difficult for him to build it given that he’s last in line.
Which begs the question: If the Glazers had such a hunch that Schiano could make the formidable leap from the college game to the NFL, why didn’t they zero in on him from the start? One conceivable answer is that their first choice was Oregon’s spread-offense guru, Kelly.
But even their big surprise play for Kelly didn’t materialize until late in the game, after what now looks like a charade parade of such veteran NFL ex-coaches as Mike Sherman, Brad Childress and Marty Schottenheimer. (Do you wonder if Wade Phillips pulled out before his scheduled interview because he sensed the Glazers’ interest wasn’t genuine or perhaps just a cover for the true objects of their desire at the NCAA level?)
Considering their intense interest in Kelly — followed by their equal enthusiasm for Schiano once the Kelly changed his mind about coming to town — why wouldn’t the Glazers moved with all due haste in pursuing them instead letting valuable time slip away with all due waste?
Schiano is working hard, and quickly, now to assemble his staff in come-from-behind mode — a circumstance not unfamiliar to the Bucs. The latest development on that front is word that he’s not giving up in his quest to hire receivers coach John McNulty away from the Arizona Cardinals to become Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator.
McNulty worked for Schiano as Rutgers from 2004-08 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before landing in Arizona, where he has helped guide the Cardinals’ high-powered passing game. He was on the Cards’ staff in in 2009, when quarterback Kurt Warner and star wideout Larry Fitzgerald helped lift the team into the Super Bowl — and nearly an upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers — at Raymond James Stadium.
The Cardinals (likely head coach Ken Whisenhunt) nixed Schiano’s request last week to speak with McNulty, clearly not wanting to lose a key member of the coaching staff. But on Monday, word emerged that Schiano is not giving up — certainly a commendable trait for the new leader of a team that appeared to give up down the stretch. The Tampa Bay Times confirmed that the Bucs are working behind the scenes to get McNulty on board and may make a direct case to Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell.
Hey, the Glazers pried Gruden away from the Raiders in 2002 for boatload of draft picks, so they’ve got some experience in that realm. If nothing else, it shows how much they want the right coach to help get struggling franchise quarterback Josh Freeman back on course.
The ramped-up pursuit of McNulty also underscores the difficulty the Bucs and Schiano face now in the depleted assistant coach marketplace.
Meanwhile, Schiano is reportedly interested in hiring his former University of Miami boss, Butch Davis, possibly as defensive coordinator. Schiano served in that capacity under Davis from 1999-2000 and a Sports Illustrated report says that Davis could join the Bucs either as defensive coordinator or assistant head coach.
Davis compiled a mark of 51-20 in Miami, including an 11-1 record and No. 2 ranking in 2000. He was 24-34 as head coach of the Cleveland Browns and was bounced after a 3-7 start in 2004. Four seasons as head coach at North Carolina followed, with a combined record of 28-23 — a tenure that ended in 2010 when Davis was fired amid an ongoing NCAA investigation of football violations (though the infractions were not connected to Davis).
SI senior writer Peter King, who broke the story, noted that Schiano and Davis have remained close.
While Schiano hurries to assemble his staff, a potentially encouraging sign for fans of the team emerged from One Buc Place. The Glazer-Dominik policy of steering clear of free agency in 2011 — a misguided strategy that sowed the seeds for the 4-12 season and 10-game losing streak — appears to be kaput.
If the Bucs are to have any hope of catching any of their more talented division-mates in the NFC South, they’ll have to open up the checkbook for free-agent reinforcements. And Dominik suggests they will, telling the Tampa Bay Times: “We understand we’re not a finished product. I know that there’s things we need to address on this team, and I know that we’ll do it in all capacities. We’re going to do it in free agency. I don’t want people to be worried that we’re not going to spend in free agency. We’ll be involved.”
That’s certainly got to be music to Schiano’s ears, perhaps something he even insisted upon before accepting the job. Why would he have wanted to commit to an NFL team that wasn’t going to make a commitment to spending on personnel?
At his opening press conference Thursday, Schiano spoke of the many people he learned from in his career, including late Penn State head coach icon Joe Paterno: “His No. 1 statement: Time is our enemy. That’s the only thing that all of us on this planet have the same amount of: 14-hundred-and-40 minutes a day. What you make of them. That’s going to determine our success.”
Time is definitely his enemy now in one fundamental way due to his late hiring: building a coaching staff that will help determine the success of the Bucs.