To sum up how Buccaneers fans feel about their organization over the last couple of weeks, let’s steal a line from “Dumb and Dumber:”
“Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!”
Former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was entangled in a web of turmoil since his first game against the New York Giants. He called his controversial kneel-down defense where the Bucs defensive line attacked the legs of the offensive line of the Giants to try to force a fumble on the snap. Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin gave Schiano an earful at their mid-field postgame meeting.
That set the controversial tone for Schiano’s 2-year tenure in Tampa. Schiano was never really able to make anyone happy. He pushed out embattled quarterback Josh Freeman for “his guy,” Mike Glennon. There were rumblings that players weren’t happy with the coaches, privately referring to themselves as the “Rutganeers” and anonymously asking, “Can we send these coaches back to college?” There was MRSA. Then medical information leaks. Then mudslinging. And more MRSA.
But through all of the tumult, we can learn a lot from Schiano’s time spent in Tampa. Even though Schiano failed, the Bucs have gained a lot over the past two seasons.
The Glazer family is full of brilliant minds and they love this team. I can only imagine the heartbreak and frustration that befell them as they watched this season unfold. But for as bad as the season was, the Glazers have done a terrific redemption job in the hiring of Lovie Smith.
The Glazers have had a tendency of hiring coaches who are the polar opposite of the previous regime. Jon Gruden was a control freak who ranted about the sidelines with his “Chucky face” seemingly permanently affixed. Then came Raheem Morris who was more laid back and often referred to as a “player’s coach.” Then came his antecedent, Schiano, the tyrant who apparently cared as much about the temperature of the meeting rooms as he did about game planning for the next week.
Now the Glazers have “Buc’d” that trend and hired the perfect mix of Morris and Schiano, in Smith. Smith is a coach who can identify with the players and build rapport as Morris did, but carries a reputation of demanding excellence and discipline from his players that Schiano wanted but could never manifest. Smith’s a leader, not a boss. He’s a guy players can trust, but isn’t afraid to lay down the law when necessary. He’s a teacher and a CEO. Most of all, Smith has a history of winning.
Ignoring any shortcomings in on-field schematics, Schiano’s failure in Tampa lies in a basic human feeling: trust. The irony is that it was one of Schiano’s core principles (“Trust, Belief, and Accountablity”), yet he was never able to earn that trust from those within the organization. Trust is one of those gifts that you have to give in order to receive. Schiano felt entitled to your trust but felt it necessary to micromanage every aspect of coaching and playing, which displayed a complete lack of trust. Actions speak louder than words.
The players never trusted Schiano or the rest of the staff, as evidenced by the stories that they believe coaches were sent through the locker room at times to check up on players. The lack of trust even extended to reports of filming of the sidelines during games to see who was joking around or goofing off. A coach can’t preach trust without giving it.
While Schiano demanded respect, Smith’s resume and reputation have already earned the respect of the players and the fans. This puts him in an infinitely better position to get the most out of his players. And the players will love him even more when they start performing at levels they’ve never seen before and the “W’s” start piling up in the win column.
Schiano deserves credit for some of the house cleaning he did while in office. He eschewed some players who didn’t fit his way in RB LeGarrette Blount and CB Aqib Talib. While he did run a lot of talent out of town, the off-field incidents came to a screeching halt this season. He was also very influential in the draft of QB Mike Glennon, who just completed a very solid rookie year. It’s too early to tell if Glennon is the answer at quarterback, but he’s proven he’s capable of leading a team and being a competent NFL passer. The talent of the starters is rich, but the team needs to add depth at some key positions, namely defensive end and cornerback.
While the Schiano dictatorship was overthrown, it’s important to realize that his failures as a coach will lead to greater future success for the franchise. Compounded with the addition of Smith, the Buccaneers have a head start as they set sail for success.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have completely redeemed themselves, and the future is bright.