TAMPA — When dawn broke on Stormy Monday, Greg Schiano was engrossed in his usual routine – thinking about the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay’s 4-12 season had just concluded and Schiano was already contemplating potential personnel moves and decisions about his coaching staff.
But after a final 2013 meeting with the players who remained steadfast and focused during a tumultuous year, Schiano was called in for a meeting with franchise co-owner Bryan Glazer at team headquarters.
It was brief.
“I woke up this morning, planning on being the head coach of the Bucs,’’ Schiano said late Monday afternoon, hours after he was dismissed following two seasons and an 11-21 record on the sideline. “When I got into this thing, I understood what I was walking into. A quarter of the coaches turn over every year. But whoever takes over this job is taking over a real good situation.’’
Schiano said he wasn’t necessarily stunned by the decision because he knew from the start that the NFL can be a brutal, performance-based business.
“We ended up 4-12 and there was speculation all year long,’’ he said. “My responsibility is to win football games and we didn’t win enough games. There was a coach (Cleveland’s Rob Chudzinski) who was let go after one year, so I consider myself fortunate I got two years.’’
Schiano had to smile at that remark, but he turned serious when asked about his next venture.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what I want to do,’’ he said. “I know this – I’ll lean on my wife and kids and family and on my faith to figure out where the next step is for us.’’
Even with three seasons remaining on his 5-year, $15 million contract, Schiano may not be unemployed for long. Rumors persist that he could end up as head coach at Penn State if Bill O’Brien departs.
Schiano spent time on Joe Paterno’s staff with the Nittany Lions in the early 1990s.
Schiano said he was disappointed he wasn’t given more time to work with a talented and dedicated collection of players who overcame an 0-8 start to win four of the final eight games.
“It was quite an honor, and I enjoyed every day of it,’’ Schiano said. “We’ve got a great group of players in that locker room and I have a lot of faith in them. They’re good men. We didn’t get it done and I accept full responsibility for that. On the field, I think we’re closer than people think.’’
Schiano thanked Tampa Bay fans for their support, but he acknowledged it was a trying year that generated considerable heat from disgruntled fans and some members of the national media who suggested Schiano had lost credibility in the locker room.
“I took it (criticism) and I did not refute it,’’ Schiano said, “but most of it was untrue and hurtful to people that care about me.’’
Despite the Josh Freeman saga, the ongoing MRSA issues and the dispiriting start, Schiano said he never regretted taking the job or allowed his passion to waver.
“I have enjoyed every single day on this job,’’ he said. “It’s the ultimate level of competition in a game that I love, a game that I think teaches more lessons than anything in life. I learned a ton and I’m excited about using all the experiences I’ve been through moving forward ... wherever that takes me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a season where more has gone wrong. Sometimes, you sit back and say this can’t be real. But being here today, this is real.’’