Peter King Talks To JoeMarch 12th, 2013
While attending the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Joe was humbled that cricket-watching, scone-loathing, college football-ignorant, popcorn-munching, coffee-slurping, fried chicken-eating, oatmeal-loving, beer-chugging Peter King of Sports Illustrated gave Joe a few minutes of his very busy day to talk Bucs football.
JoeBucsFan: What if anything surprised you about the Bucs this past season? Obviously their pass defense was horrendous and they didn’t play well down the stretch, but for a while there, they were a puncher’s chance from a wild card berth.
Peter King: I think what surprised me about the Bucs is how quick Greg Schiano got his message across. I think he was very, very good at mobilizing the troops very quickly. I remember going to training camp and Aqib Talib basically – one of the reasons why I was surprised it blew up with Aqib Talib was Talib was [Schiano’s] biggest cheerleader in training camp. At least with me the day I was there. He did a good job of getting people to believe he was going to give them a chance to win early on.
Joe: On the Bucs’ defensive line, Mark Dominik has made a point that he has never had Da’Quan Bowers, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn all playing together healthy at the same time. Does he have a point, that the Bucs may have something special if they can all stay on the field at the same time?
King: I think the important thing is, assuming Bowers is going to be all right with his legal thing up in New York, and Clayborn healthy, I think there are a lot of teams that shied away from Bowers early on [in the 2011 draft] because of his health. Because of the belief he is not going to have a long NFL career. Well, you know that issue just doesn’t go away. That is a continuing issue. To me, it is important that they get their core in tact and healthy and playing all at once and then I think it is important – I think this draft is important because I think what you want to do is, you have some key guys, young guys at key positions, especially on defense, I think you need more. You will need a corner. You will need a long-term replacement for [Ronde] Barber at safety. And you will need depth, in particular, big-time depth along the defensive line. So, I think the one thing about Schiano that I thought he did so well at Rutgers is he took guys who weren’t the blue chip, A-No. 1 prospects, the kids he was losing to Florida to Georgia to Penn State and those places, he would take the guys who were the B-plus recruits and somehow and someway would be in a bowl game every year. It would be a lesser bowl, but he would figure out a way to be the 20th or so best team in the country. That’s one of the reasons why I loved the hire at the beginning because I think in this day and age of football, you have to make your sixth round picks work, you just do. The teams that do, you look at the Seattle Seahawks last year. They had two prime candidates for rookie of the year, one of them was picked in the second round and one was picked in the third round. Those are the teams that will eventually have the best players and have a chance to win.
Joe: Like Lavonte David, who was a late-second round pick.
King: Lavonte David was an incredible draft choice. He is a great modern linebacker. To me, if you look at this draft, everybody loves Alec Ogletree, who is a sideline-to-sideline player, speed, makes a lot of plays, is noticeable every game. That’s what Lavonte David was. So to me, I look at the way they have drafted and say, consistently, if they get guys beyond the first and second round who can play, those are the teams that will eventually win.
Joe: Schiano said recently he was going to pull back on some of his rigid rules; he has so many of them. I don’t know how to buy that. From Bobby Bowden all the way down to the better high school coaches, if you ask them the key to success, they always say, “Be yourself.” Schiano not being a rigid coach, that’s not being himself. That’s now how he got to where he is. Being a tough coach, that’s who he is. I don’t buy that he will pull back that much.
King: I think the one thing with Greg is, if you ask his players at Rutgers, he had some static rules like how they traveled and eating and things like that, but, I don’t think if you ask Ray Rice how he was treated by Greg Schiano over the long haul, even if you gave him sodium pentothal and he was telling the absolute truth, he would say Greg Schiano was a dictator and had the whip out on him. The thing about Greg is, he learned how to trust people and over time, it is a classic case of Bill Parcells, “I don’t treat all my players the same, but I treat them fairly.” And fair is different for Aqib Talib then it is for Ronde Barber or for Mike Williams lets say. So, I think he is not going to be a guy who will keep the same rules forever.
Joe: Your reaction to something Tim Ryan of SiriusXM NFL Radio told me at the Super Bowl. Look, the Bucs were just a handful of yards from setting a 97-year record for worst pass defense in NFL history. Most people would say the Bucs needed to get more heat on the quarterback and that’s really not disputable. But Ryan believes the Bucs corners were so awful that the Bucs could have had Hall of Fame players straight across the front line and if quarterbacks on a three-step drop only needed 2.5 seconds to find an open receiver because receivers were open from the moment the ball was snapped, then the Bucs need an upgrade in the secondary far more than they needed pass rushers. Is he on to something?
King: Oh, if you look at any team in the league, and I have been studying this at the combine here, what are the really important positions now in the NFL when you play these multiple set offenses with quarterbacks who can run and get out of the pocket? Almost everyone says, “You better have corners who can cover and cover not for a split second, but a premium on guys who can knock guys at the line of scrimmage, knock them out of their route but they better be fast enough to run with these 4.4 receivers.” Look, you saw them play every snap. Whenever I saw the Bucs, I said, “If I was Greg Schiano, if I am Mark Dominik, I don’t mind taking corners in the first two rounds.” Because that to me, you will never know how good your defensive line is, you will never give Da’Quan Bowers a chance to be the guy who you thought would have 14 sacks in a season, you are never going to give them a fair chance unless you can cover the backside and also get linebackers like Lavonte David who can cover well. That to me is added importance now and I think it is vital for them to fill the need at corner through either free agency or the draft.