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After an exhaustive search, the Buccaneers have their new head coach.
The Bucs finalized a deal with Greg Schiano, the team confirmed Thursday. ESPN reported that his contract is for five years.
Schiano, 45, has been the head coach at Rutgers University since 2001 and returned the program to respectability. He led the team to a 68-67 record and wins in five of its six bowl game appearances after a stint as the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami (Fla.). He does have some NFL experience — Schiano was a defensive assistant with the Bears from 1996-98 under then-head coach Dave Wannstedt.
"We are thrilled to introduce Coach Schiano as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "During our thorough search, we met with numerous impressive candidates, but Coach Schiano surely distinguished himself. From his leadership skills to his considerable track record, he is, simply put, the right man for the job."
Added GM Mark Dominik, "Coach Schiano is a bright, meticulous teacher who knows how to get the most out of his players. 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."
The Bucs weren't the only NFL team that considered Schiano this offseason. ESPN reported Schiano also interviewed for the Rams' head-coaching job before the team hired Jeff Fisher.
The Bucs held interviews with several other coaches, and nearly hired a different head coach from the college ranks before selecting Schiano. Former Texas A&M and Packers head coach Mike Sherman had two interviews for the job, and Oregon head coach Chip Kelly was offered the job, but backed out before finalizing a deal. Brad Childress, Jerry Gray, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Zimmer, Tom Clements and Rob Chudzinski also were interviewed.
The Bucs fired head coach Raheem Morris and his staff on Jan. 2 after a disappointing 4-12 season, which ended with a 10th consecutive loss.
The PFW Spin
This hire might not send season-ticket sales soaring and have the stadium filled to capacity each and every week right off the bat. It probably won't get Bucs fans rushing to their televisions or computers to watch Schiano's introductory press conference and it certainly won't satisfy those who were hoping for a bright offensive mind after being teased by the near-hiring of Kelly.
No one is foolish for being skeptical of the move and most probably have their doubts about Schiano's chances of success at this point.
The Bucs did, however, land a solid head coach Thursday.
Getting the Bucs out of the cellar in the NFC South next season is going to be a massive challenge and one the young team shouldn't have been expected to conquer in 2012 no matter who was hired. The fact is that the Saints, Falcons and Panthers are a lot more talented than the Bucs right now and that's not going to change in one offseason.
The Bucs changed coaches this offseason, but they didn't completely alter their philosophy. This is a franchise with a very young roster that is trying to build for the long term, and it certainly has made its share of mistakes trying to do so.
Schiano, no doubt, sold himself as someone who inherited a Rutgers program in shambles and turned it into a competitive team. His reputation as a strong disciplinarian had to register with GM Mark Dominik and the Glazer family, who set out looking a coach that can reverse the trend they witnessed last season during the collapse under Morris.
Schiano's reputation suggests he isn't going to back down from a player if that player is not playing to his expectations for whatever reason, regardless of whether it's in the NFL or the college level.
We could see better discipline (fewer penalties) and attention to detail right away under Schiano, and improvements in those areas can lead to more wins.
He's going to need help from an offensive coordinator — it will be the most important hire that Schiano makes — and Dominik to make the franchise a consistent winner, though.
Schiano has a defensive background and he was considered a conservative coach on offense at Rutgers. As the Giants, 49ers and Ravens showed this postseason, teams don't necessarily need to have an all-out air attack to have success these days, no matter how popular the passing game is right now.
A balanced offense and good defense can get you into the Super Bowl, and that will be the case for years to come, too.
The Bucs didn't have either last season. QB Josh Freeman took a step back in his third year, the running game sputtered late in the season and the defense set a franchise record for points allowed.
It's true that Tampa Bay is only one season removed from a 10-win season, but this team, as currently constituted, is not as close to getting to the postseason as the proximity of their last winning season might suggest.
A builder — one that enjoys the process and all the pains that are certain to come along the way — is exactly what the Bucs needed.
Schiano fits the profile.