- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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I'm all for new faces shaking things up. I like it when people question conventional NFL wisdom. I don't think enough people do it, and as a result I think things have a tendency to get a little redundant with the league from time to time. So if a new hotshot coach wants to come in from the college ranks and shake things up with a new defense or some funky new plays or even a new attitude, I'm generally all for it.
That is not, however, what Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano is up to with this thing where he had his players jump over the line and after New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning while Manning was taking a knee at the end of Sunday's game. The Giants were justifiably upset about the maneuver, and Schiano's excuse was weak and stupid. Per ESPNNewYork.com:
"I don't know if that's not something that's not done in the National Football League, but what I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us 'Game over,'" Schiano said. "There's nothing dirty about it and there's nothing illegal about it.
"We crowd the ball -- it's like a sneak defense and you try to knock it loose. Watch Rutgers, they would know if they watched us that's what we did at the end of the game."
Rutgers is, of course, where Schiano was coaching this time last year. And there are a few real problems with his rationale. First of all, you don't see teams doing that stuff at the college level, and it's for the same reason you don't see it at the NFL level. It's because it's a real good way to get people hurt for no good reason. If you're losing and out of timeouts and the other team has the ball with so little time left that they can kneel down and run out the clock, you've lost. It doesn't prove anything to your players or anyone else if you're the fake tough guy who refuses to accept that. All it does is put people at silly risk of injury at the end of 60 minutes' worth of brutal, health-threatening collisions. You owe it to your own players to know when you're beaten and back off. Asking them to make a useless leaping hit in that situation is putting them at risk the same way it's putting the other team at risk. It's irresponsible.
It also shows a lack of respect. It's sore-losership. You've been beaten, fair and square, in the part of the game in which both teams were competing honestly. To try to win it cheaply with a sneaky play after the opposing team (and any other opposing team you've ever faced or ever will face) justifiably believes it to have been decided is dishonest and dishonorable. Schiano's team played extremely hard on the road against the Super Bowl champs, but by the time Manning was taking a knee, they'd lost. The game was over. Schiano's postgame assertion that he didn't know that was naive and bush-league.
I personally think the Giants complain too much, and I very often don't like the way they carry themselves as though they're doing everything right and other teams are somehow beneath their standards. I think they're very often haughty and arrogant, and when they're acting that way I am never shy about calling them on it.
In this case, though, they're right and Greg Schiano is wrong. There are better ways of making a name for yourself as an NFL head coach than a fake-tough-guy act in your second game. He should be proud of the way his team has played its first two games for him. He should be ashamed of the way he coached Sunday's final seconds.