After losing to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday and dropping to 0-5, Schiano asked fans for patience. He told the Tampa Bay Times, “If they can hang in there we’re going to be good. If they can’t, we’re still going to be good, and they’re welcome back. I’m not being smart. I mean that."
Maybe he's right. But with each loss, Schiano looks more and more like Les Steckel, another hard-nosed coach who disciplined his team into a ditch.
According to a 1984 Sports Illustrated article, Grant was a relatively permissive coach who cut his players some slack. Steckel, however, reportedly held an eight-event Ironman competition on opening day of training camp. He held six weeks of two-a-days and added "an extra 20 minutes of sit-ups, push-ups, leg raises and a dozen or so 40-yard wind sprints."
The Vikings went 3-13 that year. In 2011, the Minneapolis Star Tribune called that 1984 Vikings team the worst in franchise history. Scott Studwell, a linebacker on that team, told the Star Tribune that the players revolted against Steckel.
"Bud Grant and his coaches were on the same page and we knew what to expect, but Les Steckel tried to change all that, do it his own way, and I think it kind of blew up in his face, to be honest with you."
The only reason Steckel lasted the entire year was probably because there was no Twitter, blogs or multiple sports news channels chronicling his failures.
Steckel, now president and CEO of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, went on to find success as an offensive coordinator. He was coordinator of the Tennessee Titans when they reached the Super Bowl.
What Schiano and Steckel have in common is stubborn tunnel vision. They seem to confuse determination with fixation. A determined person can adapt if not fixated on failed methodology.
Discipline is a good thing. It's needed to advance any band of brothers, whether they are in combat or on a football field. However, discipline works best when it's instructive, not intrusive.
The "my way or the highway" approach only works for coaches who have careers paved with winning seasons, big-ass rings and tall, shiny trophies. When Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said no more games in the locker room, players on a then-winless team didn't talk smack or tweet their discontent. They went to New Jersey and beat the New York Jets.
It's not like football players are wusses. They play a brutal game. From Pop Warner to the pros, players are used to boot-camp style coaching. They've been screamed at, yanked and ridiculed for years. They can take it. What players won't put up with is a coach who, instead up building them up, wants to beat them into submission.
Schiano is pleading with the wrong people. Buccaneers fans aren't the ones he needs to convince to "hang in there." He's got to persuade his players that his tactics will lead to wins. Otherwise, he's going to get Steckeled.