Coughlin has two Super Bowl rings to his credit, while Schiano has two NFL games under his belt. In most instances, it's the elder statesman who deserves the benefit of the doubt in times of conflict, but in the Coughlin-Schiano clash, the rookie head coach should be exonerated. Schiano's decision to have his defense go after Eli Manning while the quarterback was taking a knee in the closing seconds may be frowned upon in many football circles, but it's also directly in line with what every coach in the history of coaches has preached since Day 1.
Play to the final whistle. Fight for a full 60 minutes. The game's not over until the clock reads all zeros. These phrases are all overused, but the actual philosophy is far less utilized. Most coaches would have ordered their defense to play out the string as Manning and the Giants lined up in victory formation on Sunday, but can we really fault Schiano for acting upon the mundane cliches that are at the foundation of coaching football?
Typically, when a team lines up for a knee with five seconds on the clock, there's minimal contact, the quarterback drops down and the clock runs out — on to the postgame handshakes. That's all fine and good, and in most cases, you won't hear a peep from anyone about the losing team not giving their all for 60 minutes. In other words, the phrase, "play to the final whistle" might as well be "play until the final whistle, or until the team you're playing against is about to take a knee to run out the clock" because that's essentially the truth of the matter. It's all semantics, really.
Sometimes a coach comes along who looks to buck the trend, though. Apparently, Schiano wants to be that guy. And while he's not going to win any popularity contests with his decision to roll the dice on the final snap like he did on Sunday, other coaches need to understand that the Schiano approach is essentially what every coach preaches to his players, and therefore making a big stink about the issue is actually hypocritical. A coach may not like Schiano's tactic, but complaints about a team going against the grain should really fall on deaf ears.
With that said, Coughlin's frustration is certainly understandable. From his perspective, the Giants had the game in the bag, and Tampa Bay's decision to go after the ball and knock down Manning really posed an injury risk that was probably unnecessary and definitely uncommon. It's easy to see how Schiano's decision could be viewed as reckless, and most NFL coaches would be ticked off, especially when their quarterback is as important to their team's success as Manning is to the Giants' success. The frustration needs to be tamed, though, because there's a difference between getting all red in the face and actually expecting a team to stand around idly on any given snap.
If Schiano's Bucs pull the same move again this season, it'll likely still be criticized. But teams will at least understand that actually playing for the full 60 minutes is indeed a real-life concept, and not just a poster board philosophy.
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