The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Hefferon: Schiano needs to focus on winning (Sept. 26)

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How about these replacement refs, am I right?

After Monday night’s fiasco, in which a series of missed calls on the final play handed Seattle a ridiculous win over the Packers, the National Football League (NFL) has deservedly been the target of jokes, criticisms and all-out attacks from almost every corner of sports media in America. Many have even referred to the puzzling “Touch-ception” as the worst call ever to decide a game on its last play.

But that call wasn’t even the worst last-play decision of the weekend.

No, that honor belongs to Buccaneers rookie coach Greg Schiano, who for the second straight week decided to have his defense charge into the offensive line during the purely ceremonial knee at the end of the game. This time the Cowboys were ready for Schiano’s antics, and as the Bucs rushed more aggressively than they had all game, Tony Romo wasn’t knocked backwards, as Eli Manning and the Giants were two weeks ago.

Schiano came under fire from the Giants and the media after that stunt, but defended his play call, saying, “There’s nothing illegal about it.”

Well yes, that’s technically true, as even the most clueless replacement official could tell you. What it is, Greg Schiano, is bush league.

In hockey, it’s not technically illegal to skate in and try to knock a puck out of a goaltender’s glove before the whistle blows, but the nearest defenseman would put you on your backside anyway.

And in baseball, it might not technically be illegal to bunt in order to break up a perfect game, or peek at the catcher to see where the next pitch is going. But get caught pulling one of those, and the next pitch will be thrown at your kidney.
If the players know that these actions are legal, then why do they get angry at opponents when they happen?

Because, as Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, “You don’t do that at this level.”

It’s something Schiano did consistently during his 11 years at Rutgers, and this week he used that record to defend his strategy.

“It does work,” he said. “It caused fumbles several times at Rutgers.”

That is correct, as this gimmick, applied dozens of times over eleven years, resulted in three fumbles. All three were immediately recovered by the quarterback, giving us a grand total of zero turnovers and zero wins.

One would hope that Schiano has more than this to offer the NFL, after his “revolutionary” late-game tactics at Rutgers led the Scarlet Knights to an uninspiring 68-67 record, including a 28-48 Big East record and zero championships in a conference that barely deserves its BCS berth.

The attack against the Giants occurred as time expired, with the Bucs out of timeouts. There was no chance of winning. None.

So for the man whose biggest professional accomplishment has been recruiting Ray Rice, the only possible explanation for this unnecessary bull-rush is that he is using it to build a name for himself in the professional ranks.

Schiano thinks he’s building a tough guy rep, but all he looks like is that kid in pick-up basketball who checks the ball off your knee and claims it’s a steal. There’s only one way to gain respect in the NFL, and that’s by winning.

Guys like Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and the Harbaugh brothers know it. So does Coughlin, who has two Super Bowl victories, as compared to Schiano’s lone NFL win.

So what’s the moral of the story for Schiano? Focus on the snaps that actually matter. Act like you’ve been here before. And don’t make this crap what your team is known for this year.

Do all that, and you’ll be the one that gets to take the knee for a change.