Martin Fennelly Columns
Fennelly: Bucs' Schiano earns trip to the woodshed
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For a long time, it was the grandest of homecomings. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was the king of New Jersey, if there is such a thing, with his mom and dad, with family and friends watching his new football team go up two touchdowns on the defending Super Bowl champion New York football Giants. His attacking defense was running wild with Eli Manning interceptions. His Bucs were hell bent on 2-0 and the next big thing. Then Schiano's big day vanished. The next thing he knew, he was over Tom Coughlin's knee. Greg Schiano and his team looked in over their heads, ground down, exposed down the stretch. That attacking defense was buried under 510 yards of record passing from Manning and all those Giants receivers free and clear during overused Bucs blitzes.Then came the real headline: Two-game NFL head coach Schiano being reamed at midfield by two-time Super Bowl winning Giants coach Coughlin, a true Go Get Your Shine Box moment, after Schiano's silly final call in Sunday's game, all for show, when his young Bucs bull rushed an unsuspecting Giants offensive line and knocked Manning down as he tried to take a knee. In Greg Schiano's world, the knee bone's connected to the sack bone. Say, aren't we already full up with Jim Harbaughs? Oh, and the Bucs lost, 41-34. "We just had some stuff to hash out, I guess," Schiano said of his spat with Coughlin, who grew red hot, way hotter than 67.5 degrees, Schiano's preferred thermostat setting, as he lit into the Bucs coach as if Schiano was Harry High School, or at least Joe College. It was a grandstand by nanny goat Coughlin. Hey, Obi-Wan, shut up, take your comeback win and go inside. But Schiano should have let it go, too. The game was over. "I don't know if that's not something that's done in the National Football League," he said instead. "What I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us game over and there's nothing dirty about it, there's nothing illegal about it, we crowd the ball like a sneak defense and try to knock it loose …" Then he struck up the Rutgers band … "If they watched us, that's what we did at the end of the game. We're not going to quit. That's just the way I coach and teach our players. Some people are upset about it. I guess that's the way it goes." I understand all this. It's about instilling fight in a losing program, not bowing down to anyone. Harbaugh did it at Stanford and is doing it at the 49ers. Schiano did it at Rutgers and … well, it's not a bad idea as far as it goes, especially when we know how the Bucs quit last season. By the way, I bet Tom Coughlin didn't watch Rutgers. And by the looks of Sunday, I'm not sure if Schiano watched the Giants when he was at Rutgers. He would have seen how Manning eats up blitzes and how Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz love man coverage. The Bucs died with their blitz on. OK, it's not their fault they don't have the talent or pedigree of New York, which ended up playing with the urgency of a team not wanting to go down 0-2 at home to start a Super Bowl defense. I'm not sure any blitz package aimed at a quarterback taking a knee was going to change that. It will be interesting to see what Schiano does the next time the other team's quarterback takes a knee – and there will be a next time this season, probably several. I think the Bucs are better this season. They showed grit in going up 27-13 in a game no one thought they'd win, and they still showed spirit after the Giants came back to go up 34-27, with a Josh Freeman deep ball and a sweet Mike Williams grab to tie it. That's real fight, not phony, sack a kneeling quarterback fight. Only Sunday showed what we've known all along: The Bucs and their head coach have a very long way to go. On Sunday, that's how a happy homecoming turned into a trip to Tommy Coughlin's woodshed.