MIAMI — It's only the first step in a marathon, and he is running behind more established teams in the NFC South.
But it's hard to imagine Greg Schiano getting off to a faster start as the Bucs coach after Friday night's 20-7 preseason victory over the Dolphins.
Schiano, the former Rutgers coach making his NFL debut, has preached effort and execution since being hired in February.
He got plenty of both from the Bucs, who dominated.
More important, they did it in the bare knuckles, physical style Schiano wants the team to be known for — running the ball behind a mammoth offensive line seven times inside the 10-yard line and coming away with touchdown leaps by running backs LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin to cap their first two drives of the new era.
"It was good that on fourth down, LeGarrette found a way to get it in there," Schiano said. "That was important. Then I think the second drive was really good. You're backed up … and then you go down the field, a good solid drive, and then Doug Martin found a way to get it in. … That's good stuff."
Quarterback Josh Freeman, who was 4-of-5 for 41 yards, made good decisions and was accurate in the opening series. The defensive line got pressure on the passer and trampled the run. And rookies shined under the lights at Sun Life Stadium, perhaps none brighter than linebacker Lavonte David, who had two tackles and an interception.
Blount, who entered as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart, did nothing to hurt that status. He rushed seven times for 30 yards, including a 16-yard burst off left tackle, and caught a pass for 3 yards. On first and goal from the Miami 6, the Bucs ran Blount four straight times as he hurdled across the goal line on fourth down for a 1-yard touchdown.
Martin, a first-round pick from Boise State, was both slippery and strong. He flipped out of a tackle for a 10-yard run and finally scored on his third try inside the Dolphins 3.
Schiano admitted he could've ordered a play-action pass in the red zone, but he wanted to set the tone by running the ball.
"Both Doug and LeGarrette had a good nose for the end zone," said backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who was 8-for-8 for 91 yards.
Orlovsky drove 92 yards in nine plays, thanks to big completions to receiver Tiquan Underwood, who finished with three catches for 76 yards. His 44-yard reception between two defenders set up Martin's touchdown run.
"He had a productive night," Schiano said of Underwood, who played for him at Rutgers. "I thought that one was intercepted and it looked like he just took it away from (the defender)."
Rookie running back Michael Smith answered a Dolphins touchdown by returning a kickoff 74 yards. That set up the first of Kai Forbath's two field goals.
Of course, there was plenty of teaching moments for Schiano, who came unglued when receiver Preston Parker fumbled away a punt in the rain in the second quarter. Parker also committed a dead ball personal foul penalty on the Bucs' first touchdown drive.
"We don't do that," Schiano said. "That's not Buccaneers football. We had a quick talk, Preston and I, and he understands, you've got to put your own personal preferences behind for the good of the team. Did a guy shove his hand up into his face? Sure he did. But that's part of the game, you've got to walk away, and Preston knows that."
There was no celebrating in the locker room. Like Schiano, players were all business. Adhering to the new dress code, they wore jackets and dress pants, no jeans or tennis shoes.
As for Schiano, well, he wasn't slapping himself on the back.
"It was fun," he said of his NFL debut. "It's a new step, a new start in your career in doing something different. But I was impressed with some of our veteran guys. Ronde Barber in the fourth quarter was helping with some of the substitutions and yelling things out. That, to me, is what it's about. Unselfish play and helping each other, and that's what we need to build on. When you suffer together in camp and you help each other, that's how you grow as a team."