When Bill O’Brien left Penn State for the Houston Texans after the 2013 season — a decision made public on New Year’s Eve 2013 — the hot name to become the Nittany Lions’ next coach was Greg Schiano.
The same Greg Schiano who is now at Rutgers, which is Penn State’s opponent this week.
Penn State poised to target Greg Schiano if Bill O’Brien departs: Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has informed members of his staff to be prepared for a move to the Houston Texans, and the school’s director of athletics, Dave Joyner, is preparing to counter the potential loss with a push for Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
Now, there probably are some fans out there currently thinking, “Penn State should have hired Schiano instead of Franklin.”
You’re thinking that because the Lions started 0-5 this season, and there’s a whole bunch of anger in the fan base right now about Franklin. Meanwhile, Schiano is doing great work at Rutgers, where he previously coached and also did great work.
Let’s flash back in time to what happened with the PSU job in 2014.
Schiano was fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 30, 2013, the day before O’Brien resigned at Penn State. For several days, Schiano was considered a leading candidate for the PSU job.
I was a guest on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN show in early January of 2014, when Schiano’s name was coming up for the PSU job. As you can tell in the interview below, I had reservations about Schiano and said Franklin would be a better fit for Penn State.
Franklin, obviously, wound up getting the job. He was hired by Penn State on Jan. 11, 2014.
As I explained in the Cowherd interview, Schiano just didn’t have a great reputation at the time, and Penn State didn’t need to be bringing someone in who could and probably would clash with a lot of people.
Schiano already had a reputation of being a “my way or the highway” kind of guy at that point. He had some very public clashes and lost the team in Tampa Bay.
While the team’s results under Schiano were enough to land him on the hot seat, it was likely the growing discontent among players that expedited his exit. The franchise couldn’t continue to operate with so many problems below the surface.
It’s uncertain when the issues began to develop, but they became public knowledge early in the season when Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reported star cornerback Darrelle Revis wasn’t pleased with Schiano’s rules. He also didn’t like the defense that was in place during his first season in Tampa.
Schiano and Revis eventually met “to clear (the) air,” per NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer, but a couple weeks later the Josh Freeman mess began to unfold. The former Rutgers head coach decided to unceremoniously bench his starting quarterback one week before the team’s bye, and the Bucs eventually let Freeman go.
The decision led to a media firestorm. Andrew Brandt of SI.com summed up the situation by stating there was an “atmosphere of fear and distrust” under Schiano in Tampa Bay, which makes it difficult for a franchise to thrive:
In speaking with agents of several Bucs players recently, I have sensed a common theme: There is an atmosphere of fear and distrust under the current regime in Tampa. Players have told their agents about coaches roaming through the locker room (typically the players’ sanctuary away from coaches) and staff videotaping players on the sidelines during losses to single out players laughing or horsing around. The players also speak to the influx of multiple Rutgers players from Schiano’s past and the use of the phrase “Schiano Men,” a term that clearly does not apply to Freeman.
At that point in time, Penn State needed a healer, not a divider. It needed someone who could come in and bring people together while coming out of the scandal and dealing with sanctions.
Schiano simply was not that coach at the time.
And look, we have no idea for sure what Schiano did or did not know about the Jerry Sandusky situation at Penn State. But the fact that he was around PSU at the time certainly could have made him a problematic hire in 2014, something that derailed from him getting the Tennessee job three years ago.