Peter King Talks To JoeAugust 6th, 2012
Joe had a treat last week when long-time NFL scribe for Sports Illustrated, Peter King, the author of the must-read “Monday Morning Quarterback” column was gracious enough to give Joe a few moments between his hectic training camp hopping and coffee slurping (yes, when Joe met King prior to a Bucs practice, he was armed with a cup of Starbucks fuel).
King spoke with Joe about Josh Freeman’s interceptions, Gerald McCoy’s future, and Greg Schiano’s dining preferences, after spending an entire day at One Buc Palace talking to many Bucs from rock star general manager Mark Dominik to dozens of players.
JoeBucsFan: First impressions. Reading some of your articles in the past, it seems you have some concerns over the perceived heavy-handedness of Schiano?
Peter King: I think that of all the coaches who are getting jobs this year for the first time, I think Schiano has the best chance to be a really good coach in the NFL. He’s been around it for a long time before he was a head coach at Rutgers and then he was a head coach at Rutgers who turned an absolutely moribund team into a competent, contending team every year and to me, the thing I really like about Schiano and the way he goes about his business is that he tells everybody in the building, “Here is what is to be expected.” There are no surprises. If you are not going to want to be here, let’s talk about it. I’m a little surprised that there wasn’t more of a housecleaning. That, for whatever reason, guys like Aqib Talib have bought in. If Aqib Talib hadn’t bought in he wouldn’t be here. He bought in; Winslow obviously didn’t. I think that in a lot of ways I just get the impression from talking to these players and from being around here, that this is something they felt was needed and that they wanted under Raheem Morris and never got.
Joe: Given Schiano’s no BS attitude, is it necessary for the players to buy in, to win games early or will it create doubt among the players if they struggle early?
King: Here is what happens: If you run a very tight ship — Bill Belichick ran a very tight ship in Cleveland and lost and was ridiculed. So if the Bucs, in the first year, almost no matter what happens — nobody really expects the Bucs to be any good this year, very good, playoff contending. So this year is not really important. If they are 1-5 in the middle of October next year, then you are going to have people who are going to start to say “Schiano has stupid rules.” It is the same thing — if you win you can make whatever rules you want and you are a genius and you are smart. I think so much of this comes down to how Josh Freeman plays. How, whether they can find someone on their defense to rush the passer along with Adrian Clayborn, whether Da’Quan Bowers is — looks like he is out for the year or close. Greg Schiano has to take a bunch of players he didn’t draft and do the best he can with them. Some of them are very good players, obviously, because a couple of years ago this was a good team. I think that — the one thing I would caution people about this team is, I wouldn’t take this year as a be all, end all because when you are installing a new program I think it takes a little bit of time and I think this program will take some time. Plus, he is trying to get a whole bunch of new players to play well, trying to get his quarterback to come in and play well after not playing well last year, in a new offense. There will be an adjustment period.
Joe: Josh Freeman, two years ago, had a fantastic touchdown-to-interception ratio. Last year, just the opposite. What do you perceive him to be, somewhere in the middle or closer to 2010 or 2011?
King: I just think he has to learn to not force the ball so much. I think he knows. He self-scouted himself after the season and looked at his tape and thought he was forcing it too much, which he was. When Greg Schiano met with Mark Dominik and the Bucs owners, that is one of the observations he made: the quarterback forces the ball to Kellen Winslow too much. And I think part of that was due to the fact that Kellen Winslow has such a strong personality. But, whatever, I think he learned from that and will be better. I think I am right in saying he has two years left on his contract. You usually don’t like to have your quarterback enter the last year of his contract so I am sure the Bucs — this is an important season for Josh Freeman because the Bucs want to look at him and they still think he is the long-term future of the franchise, but, if he throws 13 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, they are obviously going to have second thoughts. So I think it is an important year for Freeman to resume his climb to be one of the best quarterbacks in football
Joe: Make or break year for Gerald McCoy?
King: Ah… (sighs), boy, you know, I think he is a real talented player who I haven’t seen as much as I would have liked to have seen yet, but I don’t know if I am at a point where if he plays ineffectively, I’m going to say it is a make or break year. I believe in this defense, if you look at Schiano’s history at Rutgers, he really had a lot of good defensive tackles on that team, and good defensive linemen. I think they know how to isolate good players and make them play better than maybe they have had in other systems. If he doesn’t play well this year, I would be very discouraged for him and for Bucs people, but I wouldn’t call it make or break because even if he plays poorly, I don’t think they will cut him at the end of the year.
Joe: Earlier this year you wrote in one of your examples of some peculiarities of Greg Schiano and his personality, that once he had one of his minions dress down a caterer for serving the wrong type of pasta at a function. You used to be a Jersey guy. Schiano is an Italian Jersey guy. Wouldn’t you come to expect that an Italian from New Jersey would be pretty particular about his pasta?
King: (laughs) One of the things I was talking with Greg here that we talked about was how, in his mind, everybody says we have to eat together, they want us to eat together, that he said he loves the dining area with the circular tables so that everybody can be looking at each other. He said, “I’m from a big Italian family and we all sat down together and talked at dinner.” And I think he is a little bit of an old fashioned guy. Because, and I don’t say that he doesn’t believe in text messaging and cell phones and things like that. But he believes in old fashioned communication. Sitting down and talking to somebody. If you have some messages, just don’t do it by e-mail and text. Sit across from each other and talk about it. I think even though that stuff has been played up and I am one of the ones who played it up, I think a lot of times guys in this business, they want to be talked to, they want a clear set of rules delineated to them. So I don’t sense a whole bunch of players gritting their teeth and saying, “what a bunch of idiotic rules.” At least, that’s not really what I heard while I’ve been here. I think it will work out.