The Greg Schiano era started Friday night in Miami. As first impressions go, Schiano's debut ranked somewhere between smashing and, well, really smashing. But let's not stop at one impression. Here are three first impressions of Schiano from the Bucs' preseason opener against the Dolphins.
The worst part of Schiano's debut as an NFL head coach was that the Bucs' 20-7 victory didn't count. And that's important to remember: It did not count.
Remember a few seasons ago when the Lions went 0-16? Yeah, well, that came after a perfect 4-0 preseason. The Redskins didn't win a game during the 1982 preseason, then won the Super Bowl. John McKay's 1983 Bucs were 4-0 in their exhibition season, then went 2-14 in the regular season.
So spending Friday night knocking around a mediocre team in lousy weather with replacement referees in a game that didn't mean a dadgum thing is no reason to start printing playoff tickets, cutting up paper for confetti and mapping out parade routes.
But, hey, when you haven't won a playoff game in 10 years and you're coming off a Dumpster fire of a season, you look for optimism anywhere you can find it. And, well, since there was another team (albeit a mediocre one) and referees (albeit replacement ones) and a scoreboard (albeit keeping track of a result that didn't matter), why not go out and try like it means something? Why not feel a little encouraged that you looked like you knew what you were doing?
The fact that the game didn't count doesn't erase what we saw, which was a group of regulars who looked prepared, focused and, dare we say, not half bad.
Coach loves smashmouth
Schiano looks like an NFL coach right out of central casting. Crew cut. Square jaw. Steely eyes. And he has the personality to match. If they ever produce a remake of All the Right Moves, hand him a golf club, give him a whistle and Schiano is your man.
The Bucs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and did so by pounding the rock. Schiano went for it on a fourth and 1 by handing the ball to LaGarrette Blount for the first score, then gave to ball to rookie Doug Martin on a third and 2 for the second score.
Now, look, let's not be naive. It's the first preseason game and you're not going to pull back the curtain on your offense. You're not going to show the things you're going to whip out during the regular season. You're not going to run any cutesy gadget plays in either of those circumstances. And it's easy to flex your muscles and try to stuff the ball into the end zone when there aren't any real consequences for failure. In fact, the Bucs might have elected to kick a field goal on the first possession had it been a regular-season game.
But these calls did give us an early glance at Schiano. He believes in hard-nose, physical, old-school football. Those calls gave us a hint of what kind of coach he is and what kind of team he wants the Bucs to be.
He isn't totally pleased
The night was far from perfect, and Schiano has enough ammunition, not to mention the disposition, to make sure his team doesn't get too full of itself. Schiano, with his "toes on the line" approach, preaches discipline and attention to detail, and there was just enough sloppiness, even for a preseason game, to rankle him. Bucs regulars jumped a few too many times, including one on a kickoff. Preston Parker lost a fumble on a punt and also lost his cool on a personal foul penalty.
So, no, the night was not perfect. But, you know, it really couldn't have gone much better, especially for Schiano's first game in the NFL, exhibition or not.