By Steven Levy
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that it was all smiles at Buccaneer OTA’s. The team would go through the motions with some lazy passes, some sluggish runs through a group of offensive linemen in shorts, some fist bumps from the players or coaches after a particularly ‘inspired’ sideline or end zone catch.
This was also apparently the attitude in the Buccaneer weight room. Certainly no one has recently cited any Buccaneer player as being particularly conditioned, powerful or known for his lifting prowess. A recent blog post in the Tampa Bay Times had me raising my eyebrows and even commenting as it explained, as if this were 1975 and the concept of pro teams employing weight lifting into their off season regimen was a newly accepted concept, that the Bucs are finally seeing some progress on their new and recently implemented off season conditioning program.
The OTA smiles are a bit harder to find now, largely replaced by open mouthed gasps for breath. And hey, weight lifting football players getting stronger – sheer genius!
Any changes of course all stem from new coach Greg Schiano and his dedication to details. It probably only needs to be explained once to a young player when they question why they need to run to the water cooler that, once such concepts become an accepted and automatic part of their daily regimen, similar concepts such as running to a loose ball will also become automatic and routine. I would think that these concepts are particularly important now, in the beginning, when Schiano is trying to lay the groundwork for his expectations. Implementing these concepts now, particularly the disciplinary aspect, is important in setting a precedent. Schiano certainly knows that you start this way and ease up in the future (if at all) and not the other way around. This is why episodes such as the benching of Brian Price by Raheem Morris last year were patent failures that did not go over well. The team already knew Morris was a softie and thus knew that his action against Price was both misguided and disingenuous.
Though he didn’t have the same kind of collegiate success, Greg Schiano seems closest in coaching temperament to Nick Saban than any other coach I can think of. The control aspects are very similar. However this shouldn’t be perceived as a warning sign. Saban actually did better as a pro coach than is remembered. He was actually 9-7 in his first season and though he was 6-10 the next year, the Dolphins were also devastated by injury and had essentially no starting QB somehow getting 6 wins via smoke and mirrors. Then the Alabama job opened up and we know the rest. But Schiano is by all indications firmly committed to the Bucs for the long haul and his experienced coaching staff has great promise and pedigree.
That said, the elephant in the room with all this of course still remains how it will all translate to the football field. We’ll see signs very soon with training camp and the preseason and we will know for sure in a few short months.