Is Greg Schiano an out of control bully, a disciplinarian who will run the Buccaneers into the ground? Or is he just a strict coach who is establishing his culture? The difference can be tough to tell, but SB Naton's Ryan Van Bibber thinks the Buccaneers could be in for a rude awakening soon.
I disagree with many of the details of Ryan Van Bibber's story, specifically the idea that discipline is now lacking in Tampa which he bases in part on the offseason fight between Akeem Spence and Jeremy Zuttah, an incident hardly worth mentioning that has somehow turned into a big deal. Offseason and practice fights happen, and one incident doesn't define discipline.
What Schiano's thoughts on the quarterback position have to do with discipline is lost on me, too. Josh Freeman has not done enough to earn an extension, and Schiano's public messages have been consistent: they want competition at every position, but Freeman is still the starter unless he's beaten out. Realistically, that's not going to happen.
But the overall point is a good one: Greg Schiano is a disciplinarian and an authoritarian who runs the team his way. He is a control freak, to an extent, worrying about the shape of pasta and the temperature of meeting rooms. That can work well, but it can also backfire. When players start to balk at the workload and the strict rules, things can spiral out of control quickly.
But Schiano knows all this, and he has backed off on a number of issues. It is now clear that much of last year's discipline was a part of establishing a culture. Schiano himself has noted that he was going overboard on purpose to establish that culture, and has changed a few things. One example he has brought up repeatedly this offseason is allowing players who are making weight more freedom with their meals.
A culture of accountability
The real key for the upcoming season and really the rest of Greg Schiano's NFL head coaching career is establishing what he called a "culture of accountability" at the NFL Scouting Combine. Players have to buy into Schiano's program, and then police themselves so that Schiano himself can relax the rules a little. The fight between Zuttah and Spence was actually an example as he was getting on the rookie for being too physical in OTAs.
The players are now in their second year under Greg Schiano, and they know what he expects. "It's a little bit easier on Coach Schiano because he doesn't have to really push his way because we already learned it last year," Donald Penn told JoeBucsFan. "We're trying to get everybody going and to get everybody to follow the lead."
Similarly, Gerald McCoy talked about the second year in a post-practice interview two weeks ago. "Guys are not complaining anymore, they know how things go around here," he noted. McCoy is considered to be the leader on defense now that Ronde Barber has retired, as he is one of the most accomplished defensive players and someone who has been with the team for more than a couple of months.
Part of that is gathering the right players. Schiano and general manager Dominik continually talk about the character of players they bring in through free agency, trades and the draft. In Schiano's first year the Buccaneers cut and traded five players who were regular starters with the previous coaching staff. None of those players were stars on the field, but most of them did have issues fitting in with Schiano's strict ways. Kellen Winslow and his rant on "toes on the line" was obviously the best example. Replacing those players with guys who do believe in Schiano's system is essential to prevent the kind of problems that occur when authoritarian coaches see their teams unravel.
The players so far seem to have bought into Schiano's philsophies, and that continuously shows up in interviews with coaches and players. More players understand what Schiano wants than last year and how he wants the team function. And that's the key for any head coach: players have to believe in his system, and police themselves. So far, it seems like the Buccaneers are responding to Schiano's system. We'll see whether that continues.