Giants coach Tom Coughlin has won more Super Bowls than Bucs coach Greg Schiano has won NFL games. That would suggest Coughlin knows more about this NFL business than Schiano. And when it comes to putting together game plans, motivating players and winning trophies, I'll take Coughlin over the Bucs' rookie coach.
But when it comes to the most controversial 1-yard loss in NFL history, I'm siding with Schiano.
In case you missed it, the Giants were in victory formation Sunday, needing a snap and an Eli Manning kneel down to close out a 41-34 victory over the Bucs. The Bucs blasted at the Giants line and knocked over Manning in trying to create a fumble. They created a firestorm instead: a controversy that had the entire NFL buzzing on Monday.
Coughlin chewed out Schiano for what he thought was a dangerous bush-league move that could've injured someone. Schiano fired back that his team plays until the final gun.
So who was right? Who was wrong? The answers likely depend on your allegiances. But here's why Schiano was in the right.
1. You cannot guarantee the Bucs could not have won
What are the odds that the Bucs would've jarred the ball loose? What are the odds that the Bucs would've recovered the ball? What the odds that the Bucs would have scored after the fumble?
What were the odds that all three of those things would happen? One in a thousand? One in a million? One in a billion? The point is, they would have been one in something.
Snaps are bobbled all the time, a fumble was possible, miracles do happen. The Bucs could have had the ball near the Giants 30, certainly an easy throw to the end zone.
Unless you can say with absolute, positive certainty that the Bucs had a zero percent chance of scoring (which no one can), how can you fault them for trying?
2. The Bucs were trying to win
If the Bucs trailed by more than one score than the Giants would have every right to be upset. But the Bucs weren't being poor sports or trying to injure anyone or looking to send a message. They had one purpose: create a fumble to get the ball in an attempt to tie the score, then win the game. Isn't that the point of pro football?
3. The clock, not the Giants, should signal the end of the game
The Giants seemed bothered that the Bucs didn't respect that they were victory formation. Let me get this right: The Giants were ready for the game to be over, so the Bucs had to stop playing, too? Excuse me, but who put the Giants in charge of when the game should end? Isn't that what the clock is for? Just because the Giants were in victory formation doesn't mean the Bucs should automatically have to be in surrender formation.
Schiano points out that there was nothing illegal about what the Bucs did. There was no penalty. The NFL isn't looking into it. No written rule was broken.
And here's the problem with unwritten rules: they aren't written. How can you interpret something that isn't there? But I do know I like Schiano's argument that he's trying to win more than Coughlin's argument that teams just aren't supposed to do what the Bucs did.
Sunday's final play now leaves Schiano's Bucs open to having teams do the same thing to them. It leaves them open to an opponent running up the score by throwing a pass out of victory formation. It risks one of their own linemen or quarterback Josh Freeman getting hurt. As long as Schiano is okay with that, no one should have a problem with his actions.
Quite frankly, I'm surprised more teams don't try what the Bucs did.
In the end, how can you fault Schiano that the other team quit playing before the Bucs did in a seven-point game? How can you fault Schiano that the other team quit playing before the game was officially over? Most of all, how can you fault Schiano for trying to win, no matter how improbable that victory might have been?
Tom Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.
tom jones' two cents