The Washington Redskins face their third new head coach in four games when they go against Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In every case, going against a new coach proved to be a surprise.
Washington surprised the world in a good way when they beat the Saints who are coached by acting interim head coach Aaron Kromer. But don't call the win an "upset." Winless teams are not upset. Washington's win gets less impressive by the week.
The St. Louis Rams have given Washington fits since 2006 no matter who coached them. Defense-minded Jeff Fisher inspired, or goaded, his team to new aggression that neither the Redskins nor the substitute officials handled well. New offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer found gaps in pass coverage that Washington could not close. The result was a loss when Washington was widely expected to win.
Enter Greg Schiano, a very good coach at the college level. College coaches were the only serious candidates Tampa Bay considered to replace Raheem Morris, now Washington's defensive backfield coach. Packers OC Joe Philbin interviewed for the post. So did former Packers, former Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman. But it was Oregon's Chip Kelly nearly sealed the deal before backing away. Perhaps he reconsidered the after comparing the Buc's roster to the Ducks'. Then, the Buccaneers turned to Schiano in a big way.
The search says something about how owner Malcolm Glazer sees his team – young, undisciplined, unable to break a long-term slump. With the Bucs unable to handle the success of 2010, Glazer is giving it the old college try.
Glazer and Schiano are swimming against the tide. Some mighty fine NCAA coaches struggled at the NFL level. Jimmy Johnson was the rare exception, but only because he snookered the Vikings into the stupidest trade in NFL history.
Like Fisher, Schiano is attempting to infuse a culture of toughness on his young team. He has twice violated the unwritten rule not to rush the victory formation. Word to the wise, Mike Shanahan. With Schiano, hope is never lost.
"The Buccaneers are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you are going to get." ~ Forrest Gump
Schiano was a natural to replace Joe Paterno, but reportedly rebuffed every lure offered by Penn State. Patriots OC Bill O'Brien took the job. That seems backwards. O'Brien should be in Tampa Bay (and may wish he were) and Schiano should be in State College, PA (and apparently glad he is not).
Washington was surprised by the Rams and the Bengals. What happens when they have no video on a coach they've never faced? Yes, this worries me.
Five Buccaneers to watch
1. Poor Josh Freeman is working under his third offensive coordinator in four years. Where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, Jason Campbell. We know what high turnover of coaches does to a young quarterback.
Freeman trails Campbell's statistical performance at similar points in their careers. In 43 starts, Freeman has thrown 55 touchdowns against 49 INTs. His average yards per attempt is 5.9. The gold standard is 7.0. Freeman has a 59.9 completion rate and a career passer rating of 78.6.
After his first season (7 starts), Campbell never completed less than 60 percent of his passes while with the Redskins. He threw 55 touchdown passes for the Redskins against 38 INTs. His average yards per attempt was 6.3, also below the 7.0 gold standard. Campbell's career passer rating in Washington was 82.3. He raised his passer rating every year he played for the Redskins.
The worst that can be said of Campbell is that he is not a playmaker. That might be true of Freeman.
2. Vincent Jackson, the receiver of our dreams. How many years have Washington fans professed man-love for Jackson? When he was finally a free agent, the Shanahans took the team in another direction, by the name of Pierre Garçon. Jackson landed with the Bucs ... where he is off to a slow start (10 catches, 27 targets). Um, no thanks.
New team, new offense, new quarterback, Vincent was bound to struggle. That's bound not to last, but please Lawd, let it not end this weekend. Jackson on the field will always out-perform Pierre Garcon on the bench. Hmm. Garçon is day-to-day.
3, 4 - RBs Doug Martin and LeGarrett Blount. Martin won the starting job, but Schiano says he would like to use Blount more in the rushing rotation. That might be an attempt to force Washington to prepare for both backs. It's likely that Schiano himself does not know what he means. He is still learning his personnel. Here's a certainty. Both Martin and Blount average less than 4.0 YPC. That's always a sign of problems with the offensive line.
5. George Johnson, or whoever is replacing Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn led the team in sacks (7.5) last season, but he is out for the season with torn knee ligaments. Johnson played for Schiano at Rutgers. He should be comfortable with Schiano's coaching concepts. He goes against Trent Williams who should win that battle, if he plays. Analysts in Tampa Bay think Schiano will break tendencies and rush Johnson from other positions.
That's just what we need. More new stuff from a culture-changing coach we've never seen before.
BONUS - Cody Grimm, son of Russ, plays safety for the Buccaneers. Did someone say safery?
Hear Redskins Hog Heaven's game commentary during the game thanks to the techno-magic of Let Me hear Ya. Follow the link to my profile page and click your way through the instructions. Those of you who are handy with your DVR can adjust your timer and hear Hog Heaven commentary on your PC in synch with the game. The rest of us will notice a slight lag of my audio to the game action you see on your TV. I'm not attempting to do play-by-play, just my thoughts as the game unfolds. To comment on my comments, use "#HogHeavenTV" on Twitter.
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Image: September 8, 2012 - Source: J. Meric/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com.