Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Schiano more at ease as camp opens

Year Two, and Greg Schiano is still in a hurry.

This probably does not surprise you, because if anything was obvious about Schiano in Year One, it was that he was constantly trying to catch up. He was a man trying to squeeze 70 minutes into an hour. He was all about fire and intensity and toes on the line, a perpetual balled fist of a football coach.

On Tuesday, however, the day before his Bucs football team reported for sweat, Schiano sat in a meeting room and did the darndest thing.

He smiled.

It was a good smile, a relaxed smile. He made a joke. He laughed. He talked a little football. He seemed at ease.

Perhaps this personality was there all along, and last year, Schiano was just too busy paddling to show it. And perhaps, in Year Two, he finally feels like the master of his domain. Yes, there are still issues to address, and yes, there is a football season ahead, and yes, there are daily demands of being a head coach. But this year doesn't feel quite so frenzied as last year.

Last year? Last year was impossible. Schiano had never been an NFL head coach, and he didn't know his players, and he barely knew his staff, and he had to instill his offense and instill his defense, and he had to figure out which players were his kind of guys and which were not, and he had to determine what he had in this rookie running back named Doug Martin, and he had to change the culture of the locker room, and he had to figure out the rest of league, and he had to withstand the noise over the kneel-down play and the controversies with cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright.

"There are always variables,'' Schiano said. "When your job deals with human beings, there is always an x-factor in there. But last year, we had so many variables to deal with.

"This year, it's much more … familiar. There are still variables. But I'm so much more familiar with what to expect.''

No, that doesn't make it easy. Schiano still has work to do. He has to find a pass rush, and he has to develop a secondary, and he has to squeeze more good games out of Freeman than last year. There are always challenges.

But this year, Schiano has team captains he has developed a trust factor with. He knows what to ask from his players.

In other words, this year, Schiano doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. He just has to get it rolling.

Throughout the history of the Bucs, Year Two has been a telling time for a football coach. John McKay, the first coach, won his first games in his second year. Leeman Bennett didn't get Bo Jackson in his second year, and he promptly went 2-14 again and was fired. Ray Perkins drafted Vinny Testaverde his second year, and went 5-11. Sam Wyche let go of Testaverde, and went 5-11.

Tony Dungy made the playoffs in his second season. Jon Gruden slid from 12 wins to just seven. Raheem Morris won 10 games, his only successful season.

And now, we will learn more about Schiano.

Will Darrelle Revis be enough to cure the secondary, or will teams simply throw away from him? Who will pressure the quarterback? Will Freeman be consistent enough?

More importantly, will the Bucs win enough?

Nationally, no one expects much of the Bucs. You mention the odds to Schiano, and he does not blink. Linesmakers in Los Vegas have set the number for Bucs victories at 6 1/2, and most power rankings have the Bucs in the mid 20s.

Does that motivate him? Does it amuse him? Does it tick him off?

"It doesn't anything me,'' Schiano said. "It really doesn't. I know the challenge that is ahead of us. I believe in our coaches, and I believe in our players, and I believe in myself.

"I know that's an easy thing to say. I hear it. But it really doesn't stir any emotion in me. It's like schedules. One key player gets hurt before you play a team, and it changes things. The beauty of this thing is that you have to play the games.''

In his first season, Schiano received mostly good reviews. He won seven games (an improvement of four), and he did change the culture, and his team did play hard. Players such as Martin and Lavonte David were the first infusion of young talent in a while. But they didn't sniff the playoffs.

Losing? Losing is "awful,'' said Schiano.

Winning? Winning is "gratifying, but not as much as some people think,'' he said.

"I really believe success and failure isn't truly determined by winning and losing,'' Schiano said. "To me, it's did you do everything you could do to be the best you can be.

"But I'm not naive to the fact that winning and losing is what we're judged on. Winning allows us to go to the postseason and allows us to be champions. I get all that. I do understand the significance of losing. That's what makes it miserable, when you put everything into something …''

Those are the stakes of the game.

Today, Schiano points his team toward a practice field, and another journey begins.

Hopefully, this one ends with a smile, too.

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