Whether by design or circumstance, Bucs coach Greg Schiano didn't waste any time establishing himself — and his team — as the bullies of the NFC South.
It began, innocently enough, with having his defense attack Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the victory formation with five seconds remaining Sunday in their 41-34 loss at Metlife Stadium.
That led to a stern rebuke from highly respected, two-time Super Bowl-winning Giants coach Tom Coughlin after the game. But it continued with Schiano's unapologetic stance that he was all too accommodating to repeat in one-on-one interviews last week on ESPN, the NFL Network and NBC Sports.
Regardless of where you come down on the debate over the kneel-down play — and many respected former players and coaches sided with Schiano — he didn't want to let the issue pass without taking full advantage of it.
In some ways, it's reminiscent of when Raheem Morris announced during a postgame news conference on Oct. 24, 2010 after beating the Rams that the Bucs were the "Best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it."
At the time, the Bucs were 4-2, which tied them for the fewest losses of any team in the NFC. In reality, they weren't even the best team in the NFC South because the Atlanta Falcons were 5-2.
In that case, Morris used the bravado to get his young team to believe they could compete for a division title and the Bucs did finish 10-6 but missed the playoffs.
In the case of Schiano, well, let's just say his reputation for being a tough guy beat him to his post in Tampa Bay.
In 11 seasons as coach at Rutgers University, Schiano took a program from the ashes to national prominence with a controlling hand and iron fist. General managers, coaches and personnel executives all hailed his ability to produce NFL-ready talent. But five days after the Giants kneel-down incident, Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports published a column based on discussions with a dozen anonymous NFL GMs, personnel executives, scouts and coaches who said Schiano was "unaccommodating, intimidating and downright disrespectful" to NFL representatives who paid visits to Rutgers from 2001-11."
It's a list of rather petty complaints about Schiano making scouts stand in a box, or exposed to bad weather, or 200 yards away from practice.
Schiano's "toes-on-the-line" regimen is well-documented since his arrival to the Bucs. He thinks nothing of whacking players from the roster who don't buy in. Certainly, that's what he was hired to do. He's changing the culture of the Bucs, and if he steps on a few toes, Schiano is not apologizing for that, either.
The question is whether the Bucs, who now are branded as bullies, can be as tough as their tough-talking coach from New Jersey.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: The Bucs' main new additions have all shown up in the first two weeks of the regular season. Whether you're talking about a free agent or draft pick, it's hard to ignore the early production.
• WR Vincent Jackson leads the team with nine catches for 175 yards and a touchdown.
• RB Doug Martin leads the team with 161 yards rushing and a touchdown, which ranks second in rushing yards among rookies.
• CB Eric Wright recorded his first INT as a Buccaneer Sunday against the Giants and returned it 60 yards for a TD.
• LB Lavonte David ranks second on the team with 14 tackles and is tied among rookies for the league lead.
• TE Dallas Clark is tied for the second-most receptions on the team with five for 66 yards.
• S Mark Barron ranks third on the team in tackles with 13 and in passes defensed with four.