The Bucs are still a team under construction and wanted a head coach with the ability to build a lasting contender.
Greg Schiano had the blueprint.
Schiano, 45, who took Rutgers from a laughingstock to well-stocked to be a contender in the Big East, was hired as the Bucs head coach, general manager Mark Dominik said Thursday.
Schiano's hiring ended the Bucs exhaustive 24-day search for a head coach and came three days after Oregon coach Chip Kelly accepted the job before telling the team he was remaining with the Ducks. He will be introduced in a press conference at One Buc Place Friday.
Dominik said the Bucs liked what what Schiano brings to the Bucs defensively and the fact that he's a hands-on teacher who knows how to make a few repairs.
"The reason we hired Schiano is because of what he is defensively, what he's done not only as a coordinator, but certainly as a head coach,'' Dominik said. "The way he took the Rutgers program and what he built it in to. That certainly was part of the decision-making process.
"We liked his leadership, his structure, his organization and he's a football guy through and through. He is a strong believer in fundamentals and tackling, which is a lost art in NFL somewhat. He has a head coach's big picture mentality the way he looks at special teams, which is important. He's got a strong demeanor and presence to him. I know his work ethic. When you talk around the league and do the research, there's a lot of respect for him as a football coach and that's the big thing to get our team at consistent level and beyond.''
Dominik will retain authority on personnel decisions, similar to the structure he had with Raheem Morris, who was fired after three seasons on Jan. 2.
The first order of business will be to assist Schiano in hiring a coaching staff, Dominik said.
"His involvement in personnel matters will be as strong as ever,'' Dominik said. "It will be the same kind of working relationship we've always had with the head coach and we'll all work together to get the right players. I'll also be a resource and work with him on hiring a coaching staff and provide names and a sounding board.
"We share a common interest in a few guys. I think there are a lot of guys who come from college and coach in NFL and they run in the same circles. I don't see that being an issue. He knows football all the way through. We'll take our time. We're not in a rush to fill the staff within 24 to 48 hours.''
Schiano was a surprise finalist for the Bucs head coaching job along with Mike Sherman and Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Like Morris, Schiano has a defensive background. But a priority for his coaching staff will be to get quarterback Josh Freeman on track after he threw 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions last season.
"The plan for Freeman will be the same as it is with the rest of the team,'' Dominik said. "Get him back on track and ready to learen a new system and get him playing more consistently.''
Freeman said he was flying from Kansas City to Tampa to meet Schiano Thursday. "I'm really excited,'' Freeman said.
The Bucs reportedly did a lot of background research on Schiano, even calling Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who gave his endorsement.
Even though Schiano remained under the radar, Bucs scout Bill Rees had remained in contact with him from the outset of the process. He interviewed with the Glazers recently in Dallas and was invited to a second meeting Wednesday, Dominik said. Terms of the deal were not announced, but Schiano earned about $2.35-million per year and had a contract at Rutgers that ran through 2016.
It's not the first time Schiano has been considered for an NFL job this year. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Schiano was a finalist for the Rams head coaching job that went to Jeff Fisher. Rams COO Kevin Demoff, who worked for the Bucs, is a close friend of Dominik's.
Despite interviewing or attempting to meet with at least nine candidates with NFL experience, the Bucs preferred to twice roll the dice on a college head coaches. Oregon coach Chip Kelly appeared to have agreed to become the Bucs head coach early Monday before reversing course and telling the team he had decided to remain with the Ducks.
Schiano took over the Rutgers program in December 1, 2000 and transformed the Scarlet Knights from a doormat to a Big East power. Since 2006, Schiano has led the Scartlet Knights to a 49-28 record but was 68-67 overall. Rutgers has appeared in six bowl games but never won the Big East title under his tenure.
Prior to taking over at Rutgers, Schiano was the Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator for two seasons.
In fact, Schiano's only experience in the NFL came from 1996-98 when he was a defensive assistant and later coached defensive backs for the Chicago Bears.
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said Schiano made a great impression during interviews.
"During our thorough search, we met with numerous impressive candidates, but Coach Schiano surely distinguished himself,'' Glazer said. "From his leadership skills to his impressive track record, he is, simply put, the right man for the job."
Schiano is a favorite of Belichick, who wasn't surprised of news Thursday that he was headed to the NFL. The Patriots have had several Rutgers players on their roster.
"Greg obviously has done a great job at Rutgers," Belichick told reporters Thursday. "I think he is a tremendous coach that's done a great job with that program. And his players have been very NFL-ready. Guys that come out of that program, when they get to the NFL, most of them make it. It may not be first-round picks or whatever but if they have enough talent to really compete in the NFL most of them end up staying in one way or another and I think that's a credit to the preparation and the program that he's built there."
Sports Illustrated Senior writer Peter King recently endorsed Schiano as an NFL coach in an interview with Dan Patrick.
"As for as a coaching sleeper," said King, "I think Greg Schiano is going to be a very good coach in the NFL.
"If you asked (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick right now, and I know because I've seen Schiano at Patriots training camp a couple of times," said King. "Bill has tremendous regard for Greg Schiano and I think he believes that Schiano will be an excellent NFL coach someday.
"And, everybody says, 'Geez? Rutgers? What is that?'," continued King. "I lived in New Jersey at the time of their sorta Renaissance a few years ago. You know how hard it is to get where Greg Schiano got them to be at Rutgers? Do you know what Rutgers was? Rutgers was the '76 (Tampa Bay) Buccaneers for years and for Schiano to get them competitive in college football is a tremendous accomplishment."
On Thursday, Dominik began the task of contacting candidates to inform them they had hired a coach, one day after Sherman, the former Packers and Texas A&M coach, had a second interview with the Glazer family. Sherman was reportedly in Miami Thursday to interview for the Dolphins offensive coordinator position.
The Bucs chose Schiano after an exhaustive search of former NFL head coaches, coordinators and college head coaches. In addition to Sherman, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski the Bucs met with a varied lost of candidates that included Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, former Vikings coach Brad Childress, former Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer and Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who interviewed with the Bucs, was hired as the Miami Dolphins head coach and Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips withdrew his name from consideration several weeks ago.
It's not the first time the Glazers have looked to the college ranks for a head coach. In addition to Kelly and Schiano, the Bucs offered their head coaching job to Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier, who turned them down. They wound up hiring Tony Dungy.
Schiano may not have been the Bucs first choice, but they hope he was the best one.