If you ask the average Buccaneer fan who they want to coach the team next season, the two most popular answers will probably be Greg Schiano or Lovie Smith. And while the two men have different approaches and styles to what they do, they come from similar backgrounds.
Lovie Smith was a high school and college assistant coach over the span of two decades until the Buccaneers hired him as a linebackers coach in 1996. He would then move on to become a defensive coordinator and a head coach eight years later.
Schiano, who is a few years younger than Smith, got his start in the late 80′s as a graduate assistant, and worked his way up to an NFL job coaching defensive backs before becoming the defensive coordinator of the Miami Hurricanes. So much like Smith, he turned years as an assistant into a defensive coordinator job and then quickly leapt to being a head coach.
And the issue for both coaches has always been offense and quarterbacks. Lovie Smith’s best years as a head coach featured Rex Grossman under center, while Greg Schiano flip-flopped with his quarterback decisions at Rutgers and never produced an NFL talent at the position during his tenure, with the exception of Tom Savage, who he caused to transfer.
So how can Greg Schiano succeed, and be the “Lovie Smith” Bucs fans want from the former Tampa Bay assistant?
Fire Bill Sheridan, take control of the defense, and bring in a brilliant offensive mind to control the offense.
The biggest problem with Lovie Smith is how his offenses performed. It was the boom-or-bust arm of Rex Grossman which provided the spark he needed to make a Super Bowl run, but Smith never had consistent success at the position.
Likewise, Schiano’s college and NFL quarterback history is shaping up to be a bit ugly, but he’s done a fairly good job installing an aggressive defense for the Buccaneers which has seen Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David flourish into All-Pro caliber players.
So if Schiano and the front office take the offseason to re-assign responsibilities, and bring in someone to handle the offense and groom a quarterback (Mike Glennon or otherwise), Schiano could see the same sort of success as Lovie Smith.
Because regardless of the fans’ personal opinions of Schiano, it’s clear the players have grown to love playing for him. There has never been a lack of effort, and even the oft-disgruntled Darrelle Revis and his camp have been quiet this season.
The issue becomes whether the authoritarian Schiano is going to be willing to hand over the keys to the offense and his prized quarterback to another coach. But he’s made a few adjustments with his feet to the fire in 2013, and he may still make some more.
I doubt it, but we’ll see. Because if Schiano earns a third year in charge, he’ll need to change something to earn some wins or he’ll back back in the Big East in a hurry.