Two weeks ago “Fire Schiano” billboards started popping up around Tampa Bay. Today the Buccaneers can breathe a small sigh of relief after beating the Dolphins on Monday night 22-19, effectively dodging the infamy of Detroit’s not-so-leonine 0-16 fate back in 2008.
Who is head coach Greg Schiano? According to some of his ex-NFL players he’s a man with a Napoleon complex, a man who compensates for his small stature with big bluster. Perhaps to them his leaving college football for the NFL fits into that narrative.
How’s life in Tampa Bay? “It’s like being in Cuba,” remarked an NFL player who spent 2012 with the Bucs. Ouch.
When Schiano was at Rutgers he was a leader of young men, and a good one at that. In 11 years there he amassed a record of 68-67, at the tail end of which was his 49-28 record over his last six years, during which the Scarlet Knights went to five bowl games and ranked as high as 12th nationally at the end of 2006.
As a New Jersey guy, I witnessed a few of these games first-hand, watching the likes of Ray Rice, Devin and Jason McCourty, Tiquan Underwood, Brian Leonard, Kenny Britt, Anthony Davis, and Jeremy Zuttah grow into NFL-caliber players before my very eyes.
But at Rutgers, Schiano was a small fish in a small pond. Now in the NFL, though a small, swaggering fish—at least in the eyes of his peers—in a seemingly endless ocean, Schiano has rocked the Buccaneer boat. Many question whether his rah-rah, autocratic, college style has any place in the NFL.
We’ve seen many college coaches fail in their transition to the NFL for similar shortcomings. This includes names like Nick Saban, Butch Davis, Steve Spurrier, Lane Kiffin, Pete Carroll during his first time around, Lou Holtz, and Bobby Petrino. Only Carroll found his way back to the NFL, while all the others retreated to the NCAA.
Though Greg Schiano has vowed results in time, that time is running out—for in the NFL time comes from results not promises.
After going 7-9 last season the Bucs’ hopes were high heading into this season, especially after upgrading an already strong defense with lockdown All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and hard-hitting safety Dashon Goldson. The offense was expected to improve, but Josh Freeman imploded at QB, was released, and was replaced by rookie Mike Glennon. The clinching blow was the loss of electrifying RB Doug Martin for the year to injury.
During the reprieve that was last night, however, three former Scarlet Knights took the field: Brian Leonard, Tiquan Underwood, and Jeremy Zuttah—all of whom I mentioned previously. Schiano has obviously kept them around because knows them and loves them as he knows and loves Rutgers. The trust between that quartet is best expressed by the word nostalgia. Unfortunately, that nostalgia is probably all that Schiano has to cling to heading forward, unless he manages to buck the losing trend immediately.
In the meantime, some players and fans have made it clear that they would like their little Napoleon to make like Waterloo and get the Buc outta there.