Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Is Greg Schiano a good coach? Tough to tell

His defense has been penalized more than the Dillinger gang. Soon, the players will start to hand out nicknames, although there seems to be more than one claim on "Pretty Boy.''

His star safety seems to believe he is playing demolition derby and that dents in the helmet count more than points on the scoreboard. Right about now, someone needs to convince Dashon Goldson he doesn't need to be Jack Tatum because it isn't 1975 anymore.

His quarterback seems confused, perhaps from being ignored on the game's biggest plays. Depending on whom you believe, Josh Freeman either does or does not wish to be traded to another team, where he also would not be a captain.

His prized cornerback is rumored to be unhappy already, although the latest reports from Revis Island and Darrelle Revis include all the requisite denials. His starting left guard still hasn't played because of a staph infection that also has hit the playbook. From all indications, his team is unaware it gets more than two receivers who are eligible for a pass.

In the middle of it all stands Greg Schiano, self-proclaimed tough guy, ready to take on the world. His chin is pushed forward in defiance. His knuckles are bared. He has drawn a line in the dirt, and his toes are now on that line.

Already, there are those who wonder if his grip on the locker room is less tight than it was. There are those who think he has squeezed his team so hard that leaks have sprung out. Dating to last season, Schiano has lost seven of his past eight games, and the offense has shown no spark, and the defense cannot close the door.

Tough guy?

Schiano had better be.

Back in the day, when Schiano was at Rutgers and would think about coaching in the NFL, do you think he thought it would be like this? Or did Schiano think his drive, his passion would out-tough all the obstacles in his way?

These days, there is incoming fire. Every day, there is another headline to deal with. Someone is unhappy, for some reason, and it all buzzes around Schiano like bees.

Yes, most of the reports are quickly denied as team officials look on, but each of them leaves a trail and a group of fans wondering what to believe. Still, there seems to be a great deal of smoke not to believe that anything is burning.

So what is harder here: Schiano or the job he has been hired to do? As the season goes forward and as Tampa Bay fans try to sort out the good and the bad of Schiano, that's the key question.

Yes, he's a dictator. That isn't exactly breaking news. Part of the reason Schiano was hired is because he was no-nonsense, remember? Schiano is a micromanager, president of the anti-fun brigade, and no, that isn't likely to change.

Heck, when you consider Schiano's team has 23 penalties (tied for worst in the league) for 220 yards (worst in the league), you wonder if he shouldn't be tougher. The Bucs don't gain enough yardage to give away a football field on Sunday.

Bottom line: Is Schiano a good coach or a bad one?

We're still figuring that out. There certainly have been problem spots. For the two games of this season, it's hard to argue the Bucs have been a well-coached team.

Take the quarterback, for instance. In three of the past eight games, Schiano has had third downs late in the game where gaining a first down would have clinched a victory (Atlanta last year in Tampa, New York and New Orleans this year).

Each time, he has run the ball in a passing situation, and the other team has taken over and driven the field for the win. By now, self-scouting should suggest that plan doesn't work. And when you get down to it, isn't coaching about adjusting?

Then there have been the small, sloppy moments that drive you crazy. Delay of game penalties after a timeout, for instance. Even when the Bucs made their great goal-line stop on fourth down against the Saints last week, they did it with only 10 men on the field. Late in the game, Darrelle Revis was covering a rookie receiver when the Saints hit their final big play to Marques Colston.

No wonder Schiano took the loss on himself.

Now Schiano says the problems will be fixed. Just asking, but why only now? Two weeks ago seemed like a perfect time to fix the problems, didn't it?

No, no one is suggesting there should be any real heat on Schiano, not two games into his second season. It does bear consideration, however, that two coaches from the seven who were hired before 2012 are already gone.

Mike Mularkey lasted only one year with the Jags, and Kansas City has gotten rid of Romeo Crennel (who was upgraded from interim coach).

After that? Miami's Joe Philbin is 9-9. St. Louis' Jeff Fisher is 8-10. Indy's Chuck Pagano, who missed 12 games while fighting leukemia, is 3-3. Oakland's Dennis Allen is 5-13. Schiano is smack in the middle with a 7-11 record.

This year's new coaches? Chip Kelly made an impact early, but he has lost two in a row. Gus Bradley is winless with Jacksonville. Rob Chudzinski is winless with Cleveland. The immediate successes are Andy Reid in Kansas City, who is 3-0, and Chicago's Marc Trestman, who is 2-0 after inheriting a 10-win team.

In other words, it takes time. It takes sweat. And yes, it takes a certain kind of toughness.

Look, NFL history is littered with bare-knuckle coaches who didn't win. Ray Perkins. Les Steckel. Mike Sherman.

But there is more to coaching than toughness. There is also wisdom. That's what is different about guys like Don Shula and Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick. Yeah, they were all tough. But they had a fairness to them, too. They had a feel for the game. They had an ability to create matchups and take advantage of them.

Is there enough of that with Schiano? In the weeks to come, and the headlines that will come along with them, we will see.

And if Schiano doesn't win?

Well, that would be a tough situation, wouldn't it?

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