Why Greg Schiano's 'play-hard' excuse doesn't hold any water

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The incident between Tom Coughlin and Greg Schiano following the Buccaneers-Giants game on Sunday's drawn lots of attention. I wrote on Sunday that Schiano's move to send his defensive line on a kneeldown was bush league, and there are many folks in the comments who disagree.

Schiano also disagrees, spitting platitudes after the game about "clean, hard football" and "fighting 'til the game is over."

"What I do with our football team is that we fight until they tell us 'Game over.' And there's nothing dirty about it, there's nothing illegal about it," Schiano said. "We crowd the ball like a sneak defense and try to knock it loose. There's nothing ... if people watched Rutgers, they would know that's what we do at the end of a game. We're not going to quit, that's just the way I coach and teach our players. If some people are upset about it, that's just the way it goes.

"I don't have any hesitation. That's the way we play. We play clean, hard football until they tell us the game is over."

So here's my question: Why doesn't Schiano practice what he preaches? He had two opportunities to play "clean, hard football" and "fight until the end" that he didn't take advantage on Sunday, and they both expose why his logic is faulty.

First was the final play of the first half. Following Eric Wright's pick-six of Eli Manning, the Buccaneers led the Giants 24-13. David Wilson returned the ball from the edge of the end zone all the way to the seven-yard line. With two seconds left and Eli Manning taking a knee, the potential for a fumbled snap and another Bucs defensive touchdown was there. Naturally Schiano sent the house at Manning. Oh wait -- no, he didn't:

Clean, hard, aggressive! (NFL.com)

This was a prime spot to force a fumble on a kneel-down, if you believe that your team is capable of doing such a thing. Schiano clearly does, as evidenced by the fact that he told reporters on Monday that his teams have done this four times in recent years. The Giants, quite clearly, aren't taking a shot down the field (see: Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks not really lining up). But the Bucs, even more clearly, aren't concerning themselves with possibly causing a fumble on the kneel-down, picking the ball up, going into the end zone and stepping on the Giants' throats before halftime.

Huh, how weird. And then there's this: Schiano left a timeout on the board Sunday. Eli was knocked down on the ground and stood back up with two seconds (or more) left on the clock.

No timeout? (NFL.com)

If we're to believe that Schiano wants to give his team the maximum chance of winning, then he should have called for a timeout immediately after Eli took the knee and extended the game and given his team one more shot at good, clean, hard-hitting football.

He didn't. Couple that with his decision not to pursue the fumbled kneel-down (maybe he was saving it for later!) and it doesn't make sense that his excuse for having his defensive line aggressively go after the Giants on what became the final play of the game.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

 
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