Is he the drill instructor that forces his players to stretch in perfect alignment with toes on the line? Is he a control freak that makes sure every meeting room is kept at the exact same temperature in every building they visit?
Or, is Schiano a man of compassion, a coach who uses a roster spot on a former player in a wheel chair? Is he possibly a players’ coach that the entire 53-man roster would run through a brick wall for?
The answer is both.
If you don’t do things the Schiano way—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers way—you’ll find your time with the team short. Just ask Tanard Jackson and Kellen Winslow.
But, if you buy into what Schiano is trying to teach, agree to work hard and build a new team, a new family, Schiano seemingly will bend over backwards to make anything happen.
Case in point, how new safety Ronde Barber came to start Sunday’s game—his 200th consecutive start—at cornerback even though he’d made the move in the offseason to safety.
The fact that Barber was even at safety to head into his 16th NFL season was proof that he had bought into Schiano from very early on.
Asked if he’d help the depleted safety position and slide over to free safety after 15 years of playing cornerback, Barber simply told Schiano yes. Barber wanted to help this team in any way that he could.
That’s exactly the kind of franchise Schiano is trying to build. And Barber’s selflessness led to Schiano doing something very special for Barber prior to Sunday’s game against Carolina.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Schiano had a pregame conversation with Barber about where the veteran was going to play:
"Is it important?" Schiano asked.
Ronde Barber thought, then smiled.
"Well, 200 is a nice even number."
"All right, you're going to play nickel in the first snap no matter what they're in, get the 200 that way, and then we'll go about our business," Schiano said.
Barber had 199 starts at cornerback under his belt, and Schiano made sure that his amazing start No. 200 also came at cornerback.
It was only for one play, and it was only one start out of 200, but the gesture meant so very much to Barber.
When players are moved by a special moment with a coach, those feelings can bleed over onto the field of play. That’s what happened Sunday when Barber led Schiano’s defense to a six-point victory—Tampa Bay’s first win in 11 games.
Barber had three tackles, a sack, knocked down two passes and picked off a pass. That’s a good day for a 37-year-old. Heck, that’s a good day for any professional safety, er, cornerback.
Might it have played out the same way had Schiano not given Barber his start at cornerback? Yeah, probably. But we’ll never know the real answer to that.
All we’ll know—and this goes for every player in that Tampa Bay locker room—is that if you give everything for Schiano and this Buccaneers team, Schiano will give everything back.
That’s the way symbiotic relationships work. It’s not the only way for a franchise to win games, but it’s Schiano’s method. And after a Week 1 win, who’s going to say it’s not the perfect way?