Talk about going back to your roots.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the hiring of Greg Schiano as the ninth head coach in franchise history. For the first time since the arrival of inaugural Head Coach John McKay, the Buccaneers will give a star in the college coaching ranks his first opportunity to lead an NFL team.
Schiano and the team agreed to a five-year contract. The Bucs’ new head coach will arrive in Tampa on Friday and will be introduced at a press conference at One Buccaneer Place at 2:00 p.m. ET. That press conference will be carried live on Buccaneers.com.
“We are thrilled to introduce Coach Schiano as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” said club Co-Chairman Joel Glazer. “During our thorough search, we met with numerous impressive candidates, but Coach Schiano surely distinguished himself. From his leadership skills to his impressive track record, he is, simply put, the right man for the job.”
McKay built a dynasty at USC before taking over the fledgling Tampa Bay franchise in 1976. The 45-year-old Schiano accomplished an equally impressive feat at Rutgers university, rebuilding a perennial doormat into a lasting contender. The Scarlet Knights had been to exactly one bowl game in school history prior to Schiano’s arrival in 2001; in the last seven years Rutgers has played in six bowl games, winning five of them.
In 2006, after leading Rutgers to an 11-2 season, its first-ever bowl win and the nation’s #12 ranking, Schiano swept a host of Coach of the Year awards. Last season, the Knights compiled a 9-4 record, capped by a 27-13 win over Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl. While his work at Rutgers demonstrates Schiano’s talents as a motivator and a team-builder, his coaching resume extends beyond those accomplishments and includes successful work at both the college and pro levels.
From 1996-98, Schiano served as a coach on the Chicago Bears staff under Dave Wannstedt, coming aboard as a defensive assistant and later earning a promotion to defensive backs coach. Chicago’s secondary ranked 15th in the NFL in yards allowed in 1998. Following Wannstedt’s departure and move to the Miami Dolphins in 1999, Schiano also moved to South Florida, taking over as the defensive coordinator for the University of Miami.
With Schiano at the helm, the Hurricanes’ defense ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed per game in 1999, then improved to fifth in the nation in 2000. That helped make Schiano a hot head coaching candidate in the NCAA ranks and Rutgers pounced, bringing the New Jersey native back to his roots. That move nearly led to further advancement up the college ranks, as he was subsequently considered for head coaching jobs at Miami and Michigan, but Schiano chose to continue building the Scarlet Knights program. Now, after 11 years, he is ready to take on another challenge at the NFL level.
Schiano has already worked extensively with a long list of players who have become stars in the NFL. While at Miami, he built his defenses around such standouts as Jonathan Vilma, Ed Reed and Dan Morgan. At Rutgers, he helped develop future NFL stars such as Ray Rice, Kenny Britt and Devin McCourty. A total of 16 Scarlet Knights have been drafted since Schiano took over at Rutgers, including 13 in the last five years following his successful turnaround of the program. The Rutgers program had never produced a first-round NFL draft pick before Schiano’s arrival; three Knights have gone in the first round in just the last three drafts.
Next week, the New England Patriots will arrive in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI with three Rutgers players from Schiano’s teams among their 53 active men – McCourty, safety Nate Jones and wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has been impressed at how the former Scarlet Knights arrived in the NFL “pro-ready.”
“Greg obviously has done a great job at Rutgers,” said Belichick. “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.”
Schiano’s ability to motivate and discipline his players extended beyond the football field. While producing victories at a rate unprecedented in the program’s history, the Rutgers football team also committed fully to succeeding in the classroom. In 2010, Rutgers’ football program ranked first in the nation in Academic Progress Rate; in 2011, the team followed up with the nation’s number-two ranking.
This continued a trend that marked Schiano’s tenure at the school – for the last four years, the Rutgers football team was ranking in the top three nationally in multi-year APR rates, becoming the only university in the entire nation to achieve such a prestigious feat. Schiano was also instrumental in the expansion and renovation of the Hale Center facilities on the Rutgers campus to include interactive digital classrooms, a computer lab, a video room and a 150-seat theater that is used for both academics and game preparation.
Schiano’s new team also surely appreciates Schiano’s strong defensive background, following a season in which the Buccaneers’ defense finished with its lowest NFL ranking in franchise history. Given the infusion of youthful prospects the team has given that side of the ball in the last few years, particularly along the defensive line, a developer of young talent is a perfect fit for the franchise in 2012. At Rutgers, Schiano led his team to a top-20 ranking (among more than 120 FBS schools) in four of the last six years, including a number-12 finish this past season.
“Coach Schiano is a bright, meticulous teacher who knows how to get the most out of his players,” said Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik. “He built and ran a pro-style program at Rutgers, and he’s a defensive-minded coach whose teams have always been characterized by toughness and a physical style of play.”
First and foremost, the Buccaneers see Schiano as an overall team leader, a no-nonsense director of men with a proven track record of success who will demand his players’ respect. He rejoins the pro ranks with an already well-established reputation in NFL circles and the contacts needed to quickly assemble an outstanding staff. Like McKay 36 years ago, Schiano is the right man at the right time for the Buccaneers, a team-builder for a team in need of just such a foreman.