By Max Luckan
Slowly but surely, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be building something special in Tampa. The Bucs have gone from losing 10 straight games to close out the 2011 season to winning four in a row this year and contending for a playoff spot. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves in declaring the 2012 season a success, and it would be fallacious to do so, but many are convinced that the culture has changed in Tampa under head coach Greg Schiano, and that appears to be accurate.
The transition was starkly illuminated by the Bucs’ 27-21 overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Only few will admit it, but the reality is that there is no way the Bucs would’ve won that game had Raheem Morris still been their head coach. This has absolutely nothing to do with Morris as a person compared to Schiano, but the fact of the matter is that Schiano has implemented an austere culture in Tampa that has raised the determination to win up to an unparalleled level, one that was simply absent in the Morris era, which has led to some fascinating results so far, one example being the come-from-behind victory against Carolina. That’s not to say Morris couldn’t have done the same thing, but to be frank, he didn’t.
When general manager Mark Dominik brought Schiano in, he was looking for someone to install a winning atmosphere. It might be too early to tell if that atmosphere is fully installed, but there have been signs of it, especially last Sunday. The Bucs struggled for about 54 minutes, and appeared to be on their way to a 5-5 record. But Schiano didn’t call it a day. In fact, he did the opposite. At multiple times, Schiano was spotted rallying his young troops, giving them instructions, and urging them on. The fight that Schiano has in him has rubbed off on his players.
Or, take the “victory formation” incident against the New York Giants in week two. Not many other coaches in the NFL would have the guts to make that call. Whether it was wrong or not is another debate, but the point is, he made the call.
Schiano has made it very clear that players can either buy into his system, or skip town. He made an example of Dezmon Briscoe, Tanard Jackson, and most recently, Aqib Talib. Morris didn’t possess that kind of charisma. He was more of a “players’ coach.” Morris was often seen joking around with his players, and seemed a bit whimsical at times. And obviously, this culture and style did not result in on-field production.
And because of this, Schiano’s job has been anything but easy. Schiano had to, in essence, start from scratch and implement his philosophy, one that would, in his mind, lead to wins. As in any other situation, a complete reversal of ideologies isn’t ideal, nor is it done overnight.
Schiano hasn’t built a winning team yet. And he hasn’t done it on his own either. He’s had the help of a few experienced minds, and the help of Mark Dominik. The Bucs currently sit at 6-4, yes, but they haven’t won anything yet. But Schiano has revolutionized the culture in Tampa, which has undoubtedly changed. And soon enough, having the right culture will lead to something bigger and more success, which will, in turn, shine light on just how important having the right culture installed really is.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.