After spending 11 years at Rutgers, it’s hard to fault coach Greg Schiano for wanting to establish a tough reputation for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first season in the NFL. A much maligned franchise, the Bucs hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007, so in came the no-nonsense guy who was going to have his players follow his lead.
That’s all well and good, but when Schiano surprised the New York Giants in Week 2 by crashing their victory formation as quarterback Eli Manning knelt to run out the clock at the end of the game, he broke commonly accepted football etiquette and more than ticked off a few people. Giants coach Tom Coughlin spewed anger in the minutes after the incident, and many around the NFL have criticized Schiano for deploying the tactic after a game is decided.
“It’s usually just an honor system. If the game’s over, there’s no point in really doing anything,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “That makes you actually start not liking a person. I really don’t understand it. After you play football, a lot of these guys are friends around the league. If you do stuff like that, it kind of takes that away.”
Schiano doesn’t seem to much care about opponents disliking him. He did the same thing Week 3 to the Dallas Cowboys and hasn’t backed down from the possibility of doing it every game when his team is trailing by one score.
Some, like Redskins linebacker Chris Wilson and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, did not argue with the practice. Wilson acknowledged “it’s not going to stop anything,” but Haslett said if there’s a chance to get the ball back, defenses need to consider anything.
“I give him credit: I wouldn’t even think about something like that, to do it and get it knocked out,” Haslett said. “But that’s his way: He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy, and he believes in playing good defense and being physical and tough and running the ball and all that. That’s kind of his style.”
Said Wilson: “You see how big those O-linemen are? They can take that pounding all day. They’ve been taking it all day. A couple more hits is not going to do anything to Will Montgomery and those guys.”
Right guard Chris Chester said it wasn’t a very smart play that “borders on a cheap shot.” Left tackle Jordan Black decried Tampa Bay going against an “unwritten rule.”
Defensive lineman Kedric Golston conceded that a center and quarterback can fumble the exchange, but added that crashing the line when the offense is in victory formation presents injury concern.
“I think it’s knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it’s going to happen,” left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “Treat it like a goal line play, basically.”
That means taking the beating for one more play after an already grueling afternoon.
“It’s as simple as you’re going to have to fire off and meet them with some force instead of what’s mostly been done for the last 20 years where everyone is smart about the play and does what’s right,” Chester said. “But if that’s the way they’re going to do it, we’re going to have to protect our quarterback and ourselves.”
The one advantage the Redskins have, like the Cowboys last week, is that this is not a surprise.
“That’s who he is. You can’t be upset if you know what somebody’s going to do. Just telling our offensive line when we get in that position: Go out there and fire off on them as well, because you know they’re going to do it,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “You’ve got to respect it because you know he’s going to do it.”
The Redskins, by and large, don’t seem to respect Schiano’s infamous strategy much. Coach Mike Shanahan, asked about it after the Bucs did it to the Giants, said he has seen similar situations, but more in college.
“It’s kind of a fine line when you’re making decisions as a head coach, what you think you should do,” Shanahan said. “Personally, I wouldn’t have done it.”
If the Redskins ever were to do it, it would not come as a surprise to the opposing offensive line if Golston had anything to say about it.
“I think as a defensive lineman you almost have to alert the offensive linemen like, ‘Listen, we’re coming.’ I’ve actually been involved in plays like that where we’re trying to get the ball back at the end of the game,” Golston said. “That’s what I think the professional thing to do is is just to let them know that, ‘We’re coming off, so protect yourself.’ “
That’s the kind of professional courtesy that the Redskins‘ offensive linemen would like to think happened in the Bucs-Giants game. Lichtensteiger said he would appreciate the heads-up if opponents were willing to do it.
“That’s just a situation where, if you don’t tell the offensive linemen that you’re going to do that, you literally are putting them in a situation to hurt somebody,” Black said.
When it comes down to it, the Redskins are ready, and several players made clear to point out that they’d be happy to have to deal with Tampa Bay blitzing in that situation because it would mean they wrapped up a win.
“They’re certainly entitled to do whatever they want to, but I don’t know if there’s going to be consequences,” Lichtensteiger said. “At some point somebody’s going to do it back. You just kind of open yourself up to retaliation.”