The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new coaching staff for 2012 features an offensive coordinator who came directly from an eight-year stint with the New York Giants, a defensive coordinator who held the same post for the Giants in 2009 and a head coach who hails from and built his professional reputation not far from the Meadowlands.
Those three men – in order, Mike Sullivan, Bill Sheridan and Greg Schiano – will lead the Buccaneers into the Meadowlands on Sunday to take on the New York Giants. As far as the importance of their connections to the team and the area in affecting Sunday's outcome, Schiano ranks them in exactly that order, and in rapidly descending fashion.
"I think Mike, that helps," said Schiano. "I think Bill’s a while ago, so yeah a little bit. Me, being there? Absolutely zero. I hardly had enough time to do my own job."
The job Schiano refers to was head coach at Rutgers, a position he held for 11 years as he transformed a program that had enjoyed little historical success into a perennial bowl contender. He was born in Wyckoff, New Jersey and went to Ramapo High School in nearby Franklin Lakes. Obviously, the journey north this weekend can be seen as a homecoming for Schiano, but he's looking at it mostly as a business trip.
"I don’t get real sentimental about that stuff," said Schiano. "It’s my home, but I had been away for a lot of years, then I was there for a lot of years. It’s nice to be in a familiar place. There is a certain comfort level [and] we played in that stadium not too long ago [with Rutgers]. So I am familiar with it. That part is good, but you don’t have time. You are up there to do a job. It’s not a social trip in any way."
Schiano's connections to the area, as well as return trips to New York for Sullivan and Sheridan, have obviously brought some extra attention to Sunday's game. That's hardly necessary, of course, when the defending Super Bowl champs and the massive New York media are already involved. Schiano, who likes to treat each game week as if it is its own complete season, is making sure none of those things are a distraction for his players.
"There is a job at hand and it is the Giants," he said. "Everything is looking at the Giants. Our preparation is for the Giants season, there is no looking back. These guys job is to just look forward. So there is a little bit of an imposing of will there. I tell them, 'Just keep your eyes on the prize: this season, this Giants season."
In an amusing coincidence, Schiano's former team just made the opposite trip, from New Jersey to the Bay area. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are in town for a Big East matchup with the local South Florida Bulls on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium. That won't change Schiano's intense focus on this Giants 'season,' but he did say he would try to get over to the stadium at some point in the game after finishing his work on Thursday.
And even if Schiano doesn't get sentimental about his New Jersey roots, that doesn't mean he's forgotten where he came from. While he's a Bay area resident now, and supportive of all the local teams, the Scarlet Knights are still his family.
"Yeah, I’m pulling for Rutgers [in Thursday's game]," he admitted with a smile. "Those are my guys."