Insider: Glazers Take a Leap of Faith in Schiano

After an extensive coaching search that lasted nearly three and a half weeks, the Buccaneer front office finally settled on a head coach, and they did it the way they’ve done it before—with deliberation, stealth, and a few surprises along the way.  After interviewing a near-double-digit number of candidates, the Glazers and Mark Dominik came to a five-year agreement with Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano on Thursday.

Given the coaching candidates, the Bucs really had three roads they could take.  They could have gone the way of the dreaded “retread”, or, if you prefer another term, former NFL head coaches with unspectacular track records.  Mike Sherman was the head coach with arguably the most success as a head coach out of all candidates.   Brad Childress and Marty Schottenheimer were given looks.  Wade Phillips was in consideration for about a week. Ultimately only Sherman emerged as an alleged finalist.

But the rumblings of Sherman receiving a second interview had to be taken with a major grain of salt.  The Glazers were well aware of how Sherman interviewed, his track record, and what he brought to the table.  If they wanted to hire him, they had him in the palm of their hand, and could have locked him up weeks ago.  He was unemployed and had not been linked to any other vacant head coaching gigs.

The Bucs could have gone with a popular and successful coordinator, ala Rob Chudzinski or Mike Zimmer.  Chudzinski worked miracles in Cleveland and Carolina, and all Mike Zimmer did was create top-ten calibur defenses with relatively unknown players.  However, none had any head coaching experience or persuaded the Glazers that they were the best choice to repair the locker room.

So what gave?  As it turns out, the Bucs had other men in mind.  More importantly, they were looking to go an entirely different avenue for a head coach—the college avenue.  One that required a little finger crossing and a leap of faith.  After Oregon head coach Chip Kelly had a last minute change of heart and stayed on the west coast, the Glazers turned to Schiano, and they made sure they gave him incentive to make the jump with a five-year deal.  

Schiano was not previously tied to the Bucs’ job before Thursday, but that’s the status quo for the Glazers in previous coaching hires, pulling in Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden as late-in-the-game secondary options after failing to land Steve Spurrier, Bill Parcells, and Steve Mariucci.

Schiano has a bit of NFL experience, serving as a defensive assistant coach with the Chicago Bears from 1996-1997 and as defensive backs coach with the Bears in 1998.  He’s also handled big name players (and egos), having served as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes from 1999-2000, coaching eventual NFL stars like Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma, and DJ Williams.

Some would point out that Schiano’s record at Rutgers was unimpressive, which, at 68-67 and 28-48 in the Big East, would be underwhelming in most circumstances.  However, Schiano was charged with the ultimate task of turning around a moribund Rutgers football program, and, after losing records the first four seasons in Piscataway, he garnered his first winning season in 2005 and the team’s first bowl bid since the 1978 Garden State Bowl.  From 2006-2011, his team won eight or more games every year except one with five bowl wins. 

Now he’ll be asked to turn around a Buccaneer team that finished 4-12 and was historically bad defensively.  However, his intense demeanor and emotional, energetic personality could be just the thing to instill some discipline and structure to a young and rudderless team that completely lacked it for the last two and a half months of the season.  I reached out to several current Buccaneers once the news broke seeking input on the Schiano hire, and the response I received was almost universally upbeat.  Thus, maybe current players are ready and willing to accept a culture change.

And make no mistake, that’s what Schiano will be asked to do first and foremost—restore order in the locker room.  You can rest assured this will be the primary focus for the Glazers and Mark Dominik.  No more dual coordinator head coaching caps. 

If Dominik and Schiano can put together an intelligent and innovative coaching staff, we could wind up talking about this day as the start of a major change in the direction of the Buccaneer franchise. 

Bucs fans just have to show a little faith.  Like their team’s owners.