PALM BEACH — Early in 1998, while coaching the AFC Central Division champion Jaguars, then-coach Tom Coughlin went looking for a defensive backs coach.
He learned of a young, low-level assistant on the Bears staff and decided the assistant was worthy of an interview, though Coughlin knew little about him.
That assistant was Greg Schiano, who later transformed Rutgers from downtrodden to prominent in college football and in January became the ninth coach in Bucs history.
As he rubbed shoulders with his new colleague at the NFL owners meetings this week, Coughlin — now a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Giants — said what he learned about Schiano 14 years ago tells him the Bucs coach is qualified for this latest challenge.
"He was a real young guy (31) then," Coughlin said this week. "But I was really impressed."
Schiano's meticulous approach to coaching tells Coughlin his odds of success are good in his first NFL head-coaching job.
"He's a defensive coach, and I think he's very thorough, very analytical," Coughlin said. "I think he's a no-nonsense type of guy, and he's demonstrated outstanding leadership skills."
Those are sentiments shared by many. This week's owners meetings offered a chance to survey Schiano's peers and learn their views of the new guy on their block. Several themes were offered by nearly all the coaches interviewed. "Disciplinarian" was frequently used. "Structure" was a buzzword.
Though Schiano still must earn his stripes at the game's highest level, he seems to have the respect of his colleagues.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak crossed paths with Schiano when Rutgers played in the 2006 Texas Bowl and used the Texans' facilities to prepare for the game.
"I'm very impressed," Kubiak said. "His reputation in football is very structured, innovative, very motivated with his players."
Jets coach Rex Ryan, who works in close proximity to Rutgers in northern New Jersey, has a special appreciation for what Schiano did with the Scarlet Knights. He also likes Schiano's persona.
"He's an outstanding coach," Ryan said. "I thought he did a great job at Rutgers. He's a really organized guy, a passionate guy and a tough guy. He'll do good."
Mike Smith, coach of the rival Falcons, met Schiano this week.
"I don't know Coach Schiano, but I've always admired his football teams," Smith said. "At Rutgers, they've always been hard-nosed, football teams. … And the roster that he's putting together is a very strong roster."
Regardless of how well they know him, Schiano's counterparts respect that he has learned from some of the best (Joe Paterno, for one) and is wise enough to have assembled a staff of sharp football minds.
"I think that's the key for anybody," Kubiak said. "As a head coach, you get an opportunity because people think you have all the answers, but the bottom line is when it's time to get going, if you don't surround yourself with great people and let them do their job, you can't do it all. There's no way.
"So you surround yourself with good people, let them do their jobs and make sure everybody's going in the right direction. To me, that's how things work out. The good teams I've been around, the good organizations, that's the way they do it."
Said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis: "(Schiano's) success at Rutgers did not surprise me. He's been around fine coaches who have been successful."
Schiano might have been offered that Jaguars job had the Bears not seen in him what Coughlin also did. Chicago soon shuffled its staff and promoted Schiano to defensive backs coach. Based on the accounts from Schiano's contemporaries, now many more also are seeing the impressive qualities Coughlin saw 14 years ago.
Around the league
mcnabb jabs shanahan: If Washington drafts QB Robert Griffin III second overall next month, as expected, coach Mike Shanahan won't get the most out of last year's Heisman winner, former Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb says. "I say that because a lot of times ego gets too involved when it comes to being in Washington," McNabb said on ESPN2's First Take. McNabb played for Shanahan in 2010. The Redskins went 6-10, McNabb was benched twice, and there were testy exchanges between his agent and the team.
Revis: Jets in 'disarray': The Jets locker room is in "disarray right now," with the addition of Tim Tebow adding to the chaos, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis says. The Jets had major chemistry issues last year on their way to an 8-8 season. Coach Rex Ryan has said the problems have been solved. Revis disagrees. "It's going to be even more of a circus with (Tebow) in the locker room," Revis said on ESPN's SportsCenter. He said he wasn't questioning Tebow's ability. "It's just going to bring more to the locker room of every day: 'Does Mark (Sanchez) need to start? Does Tim need to start?' "
edwards rips saints: Former coach Herm Edwards says if the Saints replace coach Sean Payton with Payton's recommended successor, Bill Parcells, during his one-year Bountygate suspension, they will make a mockery of the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching jobs. "Sean Payton … really reflects that this thing is going to become a sham if Bill Parcells takes this job," Edwards said on ESPN. "Because if you do decide to interview a minority … you've already said, 'This is our coach.' "
rypien joins concussion suits: Add 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien to the growing list of ex-players suing the NFL because they believe more should have been done to inform them about concussions and more can be done to help them now. The former Redskins quarterback, 49, is among more than 120 players recently added to the dozens of lawsuits pending in Philadelphia federal court. Rypien said he has dealt with depression and has problems remembering simple things, including conversations with his girlfriend.
Packers: Former Seahawks defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who has 19½ sacks in 102 regular-season games, agreed to a deal. No terms were released.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.