TAMPA — Greg Schiano's office was largely empty at One Buc Place when he was hired just more than 13 months ago with very few reminders of the men who burned the midnight oil there before him. He had a blank canvas on which to make his strokes on the football operation.
But finding the right men to coach alongside him wasn't easy. Most of the league's new staffs had already formed, and assistants Schiano planned to hire were either under contract with another team or decided to remain at Rutgers.
After going 7-9 in his rookie season, Schiano knew there had to be changes. He started with his staff.
"I'm really excited about our staff," Schiano said. "Last year I knew … it wasn't going to be exactly right and there were going to be some growing pains. I think my job is to sit back, evaluate and do what I think makes our football team better. That's what we did."
Including Schiano, the Bucs have 24 members on their staff for 2013, or nearly one for every two players on the 53-man roster. Roughly half of those assistants have worked for or with Schiano, many at Rutgers. Still others have crossed paths with him during his career.
The list of new hires begins with Dave Wannstedt, the former Bears, Dolphins and University of Pittsburgh coach who will be special teams coordinator. Wannstedt, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator during their Super Bowl XXVII season of 1992, was the Bills' defensive coordinator last season. Schiano coached defensive backs for two seasons on Wannstedt's Bears staff.
"To get a guy like Dave Wannstedt to be our special teams coordinator with all the experience he brings — a guy I really trust that I've worked for and worked with — it's critical," Schiano said.
Wannstedt, who has never coached special teams, replaces Bob Ligashesky, who was fired after one season.
The Bucs also hired John McNulty to coach quarterbacks. McNulty, who previously held the same position with the Cardinals, spent five seasons with Schiano at Rutgers, including one as offensive coordinator. Schiano attempted to hire him as offensive coordinator a year ago, but the Cardinals would not let McNulty out of his contract.
Other new hires include former Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett (receivers), Jaguars defensive backs coach Tony Oden (cornerbacks) and Rutgers linebackers coach Robb Smith (linebackers).
To make room for Smith, Schiano named previous linebackers coach Bob Fraser assistant defensive coordinator, a position typically not found in the NFL.
"(McNulty) is an excellent football coach, and he can help Josh (Freeman) at the quarterback position," Schiano said. "Robb Smith was with us a few years at Rutgers, stayed at Rutgers as a defensive coordinator and had a top-five defense in the nation. I just felt like now he has a desire and I still have a desire because I would have liked for him to have come last year."
Certainly, the hires give Schiano flexibility. If he decides to make a change with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan or defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan after 2013, their replacements likely are already on the staff in McNulty and Wannstedt.
So why such a large coaching staff in Year 2?
"I think it's always a fluid situation," Schiano said. "Do you always need to have a staff as large as we do? Maybe not down the road. But the people we have in place right now are all people that I trust and believe in.
"And they all have a function or a role. And as those roles change, then our staff will change. But right now, I feel very good about our staff."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.