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Martin Fennelly Columns

Bucs' Schiano takes lessons from Belichick

mfennelly@tampatrib.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:53 AM

Martin Fennelly

mfennelly@tampatrib.com

TAMPA We interrupt this preseason for a papal blessing:

"I'm sure he'll do well."

Bucs head coach Greg Schiano hasn't won a game, but he must feel 1-0.

What beats praise from Bill Belichick?

Belichick heaped praise when the Bucs reached out to him while considering Schiano. Think Mr. Bill's words didn't fire the cannons? I bet Schiano didn't even have to take the written after that.

Wednesday, for good measure, Belichick's New England Patriots, including Gisele's husband, Tom, practiced against the Bucs, like equals. They'll go again today before Friday's preseason game. Belichick can't say enough about Schiano, and he hardly ever says enough about anything.

Don't tell me Wednesday was just another day at the office at Bucs headquarters. Media overflowed and the whole place seemed star struck. So, this is what real NFL power looks like up close, Tom Brady to Wes Welker on Bucs practice fields. Josh Freeman and Mike Williams, take notes.

And there were the head coaches, a pair of teachers, perfectionists and secret keepers separated by just 175 NFL regular-season wins, five Super Bowls, three Super Bowl victories. Belichick is the standard, the gold and diamond source. Greg Schiano, take notes.

He is.

"I'd be foolish not to learn from coach Belichick today — and I did," Schiano said.

Belichick isn't perfect. He can't beat Tommy Coughlin at Super Bowls. And there was the stain of SpyGate. And the Patriots haven't won it all since 2004. Belichick's defense was statistically worse than the Bucs last season.

He's still Belichick.

"I don't get nervous around a lot of people," Bucs defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said. "But (Belichick) was walking through the hall earlier, I dang near turned the other way.

"I don't want to look this man in his eyes. There's something about him. He has a presence about him."

Belichick, present, talked Schiano:

"We both have a defensive background, so I think we have a lot in common there.  He's coached some of our players, going back to Vince (Wilfork) at Miami, guys like that.  So we have a long relationship.  My son went to Rutgers. I spent more time there watching him play lacrosse, but also being around coach.  He's come up to our practices and spoke to our team and observed us on the field and vice versa.

"I have a lot of respect for him and think this is a great opportunity for him. I'm sure he'll do well."

As for recommending Schiano to the Bucs:

"It's not about signing off on it. All I can do is be honest. That's all I can do. What somebody else is looking for, they have to decide what's right for them. ... All I can do is just be honest. And I do, I think the world of Greg. I think he's a good coach. He's got a good personality, he treats his players well, he's smart, he's tough. He did a great job with the Rutgers program without some of the opportunities that some other programs that he was going against had. But he competed really well in that conference and against those teams. I've always been impressed with the way his teams performed. I have no problem saying that at all."

I have no idea what it means when Bill Belichick says you have a good personality …

Schiano on Belichick:

"If he didn't have the achievements he's had, then it wouldn't matter what he did, right? Achievements are what make people look at him and say, 'What's he doing different from everybody else?'

"Once you start to unpeel that, you see what's different. He has a very unique ability, because of his expertise with the game, of simplifying things for the players and preparing the players. At the end of the day, that's all it's about. That's what coaching is. That and I think his experience in personnel. I think he's very, very sharp in that. So, you take ability to teach, and that's what simplifying is, and you take the ability to identify personnel matches, that's why I look at him. That's why he's so successful, when you look at a guy and try to use it as a template to what you'd like to do."

Where to start?

"Well, it's a big process," Belichick said. "I don't think there's any one thing.  There's no magic wand. ... Certainly, along the way, I made my share of mistakes and you try to learn from them and try not to repeat those.  But that's part of the process."

As for Schiano going from college to pros …

"He's coached NFL players, they just were in college, that's all," Belichick said. "The Vince Wilforks, the Devin McCourtys, all the guys that he's coached, they're NFL players. They just weren't in the NFL yet. And he's coached in the NFL. So he knows what he's doing. He'll be fine."

May the Hoodie be with you.

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