By Michael Rosenberg
January 26, 2012

Tony Dungy coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a while, coached them well. The Bucs fired him because they were tired of losing in the playoffs every year. They hired Jon Gruden, who immediately won a Super Bowl, but then the team declined and they fired him, too. They hired Raheem Morris because they wanted some youthful enthusiasm, but then his team showed too much youth and not enough enthusiasm. So they fired him. And then, this week, they hired Rutgers coach Greg Schiano.

I'm sure each of these moves made sense in a vacuum. Seriously. Go stick your head in a vacuum. Then this will all make sense.


How do you go from Tony Dungy to Jon Gruden to Raheem Morris to Greg Schiano? Does that seem like progress to anybody on this planet? If Schiano fails (did I say "if?) then whom will the Bucs hire? The nearest high school coach?

Almost every coaching hire is greeted with some level of optimism. Fans want to believe. Media folks don't want to sound like cynics. We want to give people a chance. And yet: This Schiano move is the most baffling NFL coaching hire I can remember.

It's true that Schiano built the Rutgers program from nothing. The question is: from nothing to what? He was 28-48 in the Big East, which is not a major conference by any reasonable measure except the one used by the Bowl Championship Series (which, of course, is not reasonable).

In the last three years, Schiano's Big East record was 8-13. He never won the Big East. He is considered a good guy, and his graduation rate was very high, but he could be a saint and the Saints wouldn't care.

Schiano is also known for discipline and organization -- you'll hear a lot about that before next season, because it's his strength and Morris lost the team. But he did not go 8-13 in his league the last three years by accident. There is a reason he never won the Big East.

Schiano is a lousy game coach. And if he was a lousy game coach in college, where the schemes (generally) are not as sophisticated, how can he outfox guys like Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher, John Fox or Tom Coughlin, who have been winning in the NFL for years? (Those guys are all on the Bucs' 2012 schedule, by the way.)

Discipline and organization are nice, but they won't last if Schiano is as poor of a game coach as he was at Rutgers. NFL players understand the game much better than college players. They are older. They have played in more games, and more importantly, they have played for more coaches. They know bad coaching when they receive it.

I suppose there is an outside chance Schiano can win by delegating -- hire an offensive whiz, a defensive mastermind, and do the motivating himself. But I doubt he'll try that. Football coaches who pride themselves on organization don't like to delegate, and they really don't like to delegate when they get the biggest opportunity of their lives.

If Schiano bombs, the Bucs will have no excuse, because they are thinking so far outside the box here that they can't even see the box.

There have been some lousy hires in the NFL over the years, but in most cases, you could at least kinda sorta understand the decision-making. Rich Kotite was an epic failure with the Jets -- he went 3-13 his first year and 1-15 his second year, and just to prove how bad Kotite was, Bill Parcells took over and immediately went 9-7. But Kotite had a decent record with the Eagles before that. He even won a playoff game. So when the Jets hired him, there was at least a shred of logic behind it.

Rod Marinellli went 0-16 in his third year with the Lions, a remarkably incompetent performance, even by Lions standards. But Marinelli had been a highly respected defensive line coach with the Buccaneers. Other NFL teams thought he had the charisma and motivational skills to be a head coach. So he wasn't the craziest hire ever.

Eric Mangini worked for Bill Belichick and had two winning seasons with the Jets before he bombed out with the Browns. Rod Rust was a longtime assistant for successful NFL teams before he went 1-15 with the Patriots.

Greg Schiano? He isn't qualified for this. The things he did well at Rutgers -- getting the community to believe, recruiting, taking academics seriously -- don't matter in the NFL. I love when unconventional moves work in the NFL, but this is beyond unconventional. I don't know how you win the NFC South with a guy who had 11 years to win the Big East and never did.

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