TAMPA — When the Bucs hired Raheem Morris as coach, they hoped he would become the next Mike Tomlin. In replacing him with Greg Schiano, they have to wish for the next Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, the 49ers coach who made the transition from college where he led San Diego and Stanford, took a once-proud franchise that had suffered eight straight losing seasons to within one game — heck, one play — of the Super Bowl.
Going from worst to first is well documented in the NFC South. Schiano doesn't have to make wine from water. The Bucs went 10-6 in 2010. But he's aware of the increased urgency to win.
"I … know it's a win-now league. Believe me, I got that memo," Schiano said. "I think it trickled down to college as well. You had a head coach get fired in college after two years. That's unheard of. But we also know what coaches are getting paid, too. That's changed, too. With everything, as the stakes rise, I got that part, too.
"There's such a fine line in this league between winning and losing. Now it is in college, too, but it's much finer here. I think the talent level is much closer, too. So we added some talent. We'll add some more in the draft, try to coach them the best we can. We talked about implementing some new systems, and obviously, we won't be as far along as the teams that we play. Try to win every game, more important, try to go out and play the best we can.
"I think when you start worrying about, 'Got to win this. Got to win that. This is a must-win,' I won't get into that because every step of the way, all you can control is how your team does; what I do as a coach Monday through Saturday to get ready for Sunday. The old adage, wars are won before they're fought."
Schiano was in high demand at the NFC coaches breakfast last week in Palm Beach. The most common topic was steps he has taken to avoid becoming another statistic among coaches who failed to make the transition from college to pro.
"I think a lot is made about college coaches that haven't done well," Schiano said. "But if you look at it, there are a lot of coaches (overall) who haven't done well. It's a pretty high turnover rate in this business. Throw the college coaches in there as well. I understand the reasons people say it is different. I think the thing I'm glad about is that I was a head coach for 11 years before I took on this challenge."
Schiano also took measures to decrease the learning curve by hiring veteran assistants, including Butch Davis (defensive assistant), Jimmy Raye (offensive assistant), Mike Sullivan (offensive coordinator) and Bill Sheridan (defensive coordinator). The hardest part for Schiano so far?
"I think figuring out all these rules," he said. "This is Phase 1. You can lift, and you can meet, but you can't go on the field. We had a lot of rules in college, too, so they are just different. But I've got to sift through it."
BATTLE OVER RICHARDSON? Talking to Schiano, it's clear he would welcome the addition of a running back such as Alabama's Trent Richardson. When a coach openly pines for a player prior to the draft, cynics suspect a smokescreen. But when you're talking about the No. 5 pick, there's not much intrigue.
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But more and more, it looks like the Browns, at No. 4, will take Richardson before the Bucs have a shot. Cleveland GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur attended his workout at Alabama. Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill is possible if the Browns decide to give up on Colt McCoy. The Browns also have to consider Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon.
Richardson will visit and work out for the Browns and Bucs. More and more, it looks as if Tampa Bay will pick among Richardson, Blackmon, LSU CB Morris Claiborne and, if he gets past the Vikings at No. 3, USC tackle Matt Kalil.
BARBER DEAL: CB Ronde Barber signed a one-year, $3 million deal, down $1 million in base salary from 2011. It's likely Barber can make that up with playing-time incentives. So it backs up the team's promise that Barber will compete for the starting right spot, most likely with the recently signed Eric Wright.