Another season, another handshake debacle. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin used his postgame meeting with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano to voice his displeasure over Bucs defenders attempting to get after quarterback Eli Manning on the final snap -- a kneel-down -- of the Giants' 41-34 victory. Schiano stood his ground and said "there's nothing dirty about it." Which coach is right?
Greg Schiano said in his postgame press conference that what he did was neither illegal nor dirty. Well, I agree that it wasn't illegal, but it was definitely dirty.
Tom Coughlin had every right to be enraged. I highly doubt that, had the tables been turned, Schiano would have appreciated seeing opposing defensive linemen diving at his players' knees. I understand that he wants to compete for 60 minutes, but it should be a fair fight; the Buccaneers shouldn't strike when the other team is basically conceding the play.
When I was with the Baltimore Ravens, I coached one of the most intimidating and physically imposing defenses in the NFL. We didn't get that reputation by taking cheap shots.
Both coaches, technically, are right, but I can't really support Greg Schiano's stance too thoroughly. If a team is kneeling down to run out the clock, it's a merciful ending -- sporting and clean.
To go all out when a team is in victory formation is potentially dangerous and, more than anything, likely a waste of time. The winning team would almost always secure the ball if challenged, and wouldn't allow for a turnover. The potential for injury -- and then retaliation -- could ruin an otherwise competitive game.
Then there's this: How would Schiano like someone to do the same thing to the Buccaneers? I don't think his players would take too kindly to it.
It was clearly a dirty play. Just like when the New England Patriots went after Arizona Cardinals running back Ryan Williams in the final minutes of a close game rather than letting Williams run out the clock.
All right, that might not be the same thing.
But I like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' attitude. That team has been pushed around in recent years, to the point where it might as well go with the swashbuckling-pirate-adorned helmets and orange uniforms from its truly dark days. So why not try to make something happen? Yeah, there seems to be an unwritten rule about everybody just kind of fooling around when teams go into the victory formation. But why not take a chance?
Sure, there's a 99.999 percent chance that nothing will happen. But then you remember the "Miracle at the Meadowlands," or Craig T. Nelson handing the ball off at the end of the game in "All the Right Moves," and you think something crazy might fly.
So Schiano should continue to go for it. If you look at how the Detroit Lions responded in the wake of last season's handshake incident between Jim Schwartz and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, it seems like a good idea.
I am going to side with Tom Coughlin. If I were facing a team that was clearly in a kneel-down situation, I would be passive-aggressive in my rush. I understand Greg Schiano's point about finishing the game and being aggressive, but I think you can teach those characteristics in other ways.
As for the possibility of forcing a fumble, I also understand that argument, but I still believe in letting offenses proceed in sure kneel-down situations to end a game or a half.
At first blush, I thought it was a bush-league move on Schiano's part. But the more I think about it, why shouldn't the Buccaneers try to make a play in that situation? This isn't the final stage of the Tour de France, where the competitors ride down the Champs-Élysées side-by-side, (literally) toasting the winner-to-be with champagne flutes. If New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning fumbles in that spot and the Bucs recover, Tampa Bay gets the ball (unless the referees screw up the call ... which, as we know, would never have happened).
Now that Schiano and the Bucs have shown their hand, I expect some other teams to give this tactic a try,* too.
(*Until the NFL bans it in the name of preserving player safety.)
Maybe it's just me, but I'll cede to the opinion of the guy with two Super Bowls on his résumé rather than the opinion of someone who, at this time last year, was breaking down game film of Syracuse. It's great that Schiano said, "If you watched us at Rutgers, you'll know that's what we do." Um, that's college football. That's the junior-varsity level. This is the big time. This is the show.
Plenty of ideas work well in college and not in the pros -- mascots running on the field after touchdowns, fans rushing the field after upsets, and the wishbone offense. Add this to that list. You think if another team pulled a similar stunt against the Buccaneers, Schiano wouldn't be screaming bloody murder in response? Hey, when I took my first office job, I didn't wear jeans, T-shirts and a baseball cap into work. It was time to be a professional then, and it's time now. I don't know anyone who can defend what Schiano did.