Drew Magary writes sports commentary for Deadspin, Maxim, GQ and is the author of "The Postmortal."
Well, it took them seventeen years, but the Bucs were finally able to find a replacement for Raheem Morris, AND they managed to avoid hiring Mike Sherman. Phew! That was close! Instead, the Bucs decided to go the college route, first with Oregon's Chip Kelly (who bailed at the last second), and finally casting their lot with Rutgers' Greg Schiano.
Why, you might ask, would the Bucs be so gung ho about hiring a college coach? College coaches have such a rich, illustrious record of failing in the NFL that it seems like suicide to try again. You know all the infamous names by now: Spurrier, Petrino, Holtz, Saban, etc. All of them jumped to the NFL, only to go slinking back to college after being unable to hang with the big boys. Why would the Bucs try and buck that trend and hire a dude with only three years of coaching experience at the pro level?
I think it’s pretty obvious: Jim Harbaugh.
You saw what Harbaugh just did in one season as the head coach of the 49ers. He took them from six wins to thirteen, and he (with help from new GM Trent Baalke) put together a studly young defense that will almost certainly keep San Francisco in contention for the next several years. He even made chicken salad out of Alex Smith. And he did all this without the benefit of a full offseason. You could argue that no rookie head coach has ever made that kind of impact in such a short period of time. Harbaugh has single-handedly made the idea of hiring a college coach somewhat palatable again.
Perhaps most critical of all was the WAY Harbaugh coached. Unlike miniature dictators like Saban and Petrino, and unlike golf course mainstays like Spurrier, Harbaugh embodied an entirely new approach: positive discipline. He challenged players without berating them. He built players up without kowtowing to them (see Schiano’s predecessor). And his players were always confident that their coach knew what he was doing, which is probably the most important thing of all.
That’s what the Bucs want out of Schiano. They don’t want a cheerleader like Pete Carroll, nor do they want a coldhearted autocrat. They’re hoping that Schiano will use the same techniques Harbaugh used and eventually duplicate the 49ers success.
It’s a huge risk to take. Harbaugh had far more experience in the pros (mostly as a player), which gave him a leg up in winning over his locker room. And he was coming off a huge season in a big-time conference. Schiano, on the other hand, is coming from an overachieving school in a moribund conference, with no NFL playing career to hang his hat on. To assume he could pull off a Harbaugh-like turnaround based on his temperament alone would be foolish. The man is gonna have to know his football, too. And if he doesn’t, it’ll be another headstone in the graveyard of failed college coaches in the NFL.