Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gary Shelton: Coach Greg Schiano busies himself with creating his process for transforming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In the breathless world of Greg Schiano, you can feel the minute hand move.

He is a coach in a hurry, and daylight is wasting. There are drills to teach and films to watch and players to evaluate and thermostat controls to adjust and drill cones that aren't the proper shade of orange and trust to develop and relationships to build and a team to motivate and a staff to mesh and plan to build and a franchise to repair.

Time is the enemy, he will tell you, and darned it doesn't seem as if he is trying to conquer it by sheer exhaustion. In 132 days, more than half of the offseason, Tampa Bay has learned that about Schiano. The rest of it, we will learn as we go along.

For now, Schiano is finally still. On Wednesday, he sat in the media library on the second floor of One Buc Place, a large soft drink at his right hand and a large, weary wristwatch on his left arm. For a half-hour, he talked about expectations and visions, about trust and beliefs, and him and his team.

And so you throw this question at him:

"Greg, are you good enough for this job?"

That's the question that counts, isn't it? It's the question you want to ask of your surgeon, of your pilot, of your presidential candidate. It's the question you ask of your child's teacher, of the guy who is working on your roof, of the policeman who protects your neighborhood. When you get down to it, what is more important to know about a person?

Schiano smiles at the question, and perhaps at the bluntness of the guy who asked it. He hesitates, forming the answer in his mind. Then he leans forward and says this:

"If I didn't think I was the right man for this job, I wouldn't have taken this job."

How else would you have a coach answer? Given the team he must turn around, given the mess he must clean up, isn't a bit of confidence a good thing? There has never been a successful coach, maybe not a successful anything, who did not believe in himself.

In Tampa Bay, there remains much to know about Schiano. While the general buzz has been positive, there remains some mystery to the guy. Back when Sam Wyche was hired by the Bucs, he shook so many hands you wondered if he was running for mayor. Tony Dungy was the nicest guy in town from his first day here. Jon Gruden was so popular his first job was simply to pick the confetti out of his hair. Raheem Morris was willing to take you home with him.

Schiano, by contrast, immersed himself in the million or so tasks of the offseason. There was a staff to hire and free agents to sign and a culture to change. There were players to draft and a locker room to restore and a tone to set. In other words, his day planner never had enough lines.

"It's been a dead sprint since Jan. 26," said Schiano, who turned 46 on Friday. "That first year, everything takes longer. What should take an hour takes four hours."

That isn't what you want to know, though, is it? You want to know how much better the Bucs might be. You want to know if the Bucs can win next year, or if this is the start of a multiyear building plan.

"I think it's both, really," Schiano said. "I think the NFL has such a small margin between the best and the last. I don't think it's ever that you don't have a chance to win on Sunday. That's what I love about this league.''

So the Bucs will have a chance to win 16 times?

"If I didn't think that, they ought to find a new coach. My point is this: Have a plan, make sure you're prepared on that plan, and go out and play the best and smartest you can.

"Do I think as far as changing a culture it will be better off next year? Of course it will. But it doesn't mean you have to wait a year before you can win games."

Ah, but can the Bucs have a winning season? A playoff season?

"I don't get into answering those kinds of questions," Schiano said. "The two guys I learned the most from are Coach Joe Paterno and Coach (John) Wooden. I worked for Paterno for six years, and the word 'win' was mentioned … you could count it on both hands. The focus wasn't 'winning.' The focus was doing the best we can.

"People say, 'Now you're getting into coaches' speak. You're trying to avoid the question.' But Coach Wooden was the same. Winning wasn't talked about. It was all the things that added up to winning. It was the process, the process, the process."

He is a detail guy, Schiano. Throughout the offseason, there have been articles about his controlling nature, from making sure rooms were a certain temperature to designing his own drills.

Schiano describes himself as passionate, as competitive. He stops short of "driven."

"I don't like that word," he said. "Driven, to me, has a ruthlessness to it. Passionate is a guy who cares."

For now, Schiano admits that his team doesn't know him. Not really.

"Not yet," he said. "It'll take time. It'll take experiences together. I think this team is still figuring me out, but as the players are figuring me out, they're willing to try. I didn't know that would be the case. They're not sure yet. I wouldn't be sure yet, either. How are you going to be sure? But each day, when you're preparing them and you're helping them be the best they can be, you just keep putting money in the bank. The trust meter continues to grow."

What do you know about Schiano so far? He was studying to be a lawyer when he got the coaching bug. He takes pride in honesty, even if it means saying something a player doesn't want to hear. He loves the feel of the sideline on game day.

Also, he knows that Tampa Bay expects him to win.

Good thing, isn't it, that Schiano expects it, too.

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