"It wasn't easy."
Mike Teel played quarterback for Schiano for three years when both were at Rutgers University. Yes, that Schiano, perhaps the most vilified coach in sports today. Teel makes it clear that he liked playing for Schiano back then and still respects him greatly.
He also makes it clear that playing for Schiano was brutal at times.
"I loved playing for him, but I hated playing for him," Teel said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "We constantly butted heads. But we also became close. I played quarterback for him for three years, and the thing about him is that he made me better as a college player and also a better man."
Yet despite the admiration Teel feels for Schiano, he also believes only a certain type of athlete can play for him—one who has the thickest of skin and can digest one clear Schiano principle.
"He expected the best from you all the time," Teel remembered. "In the film room, on the field, everywhere."
Teel said that when Schiano arrived at Rutgers, "a significant number" of players transferred.
"They wanted to be babied," he said. "They couldn't hack it playing for him."
Teel offered perhaps the best window inside of Schiano the man. As he knows him better than almost any player Schiano has ever coached, Teel's view of his former coach is objective, multifaceted and honest. He credits Schiano for making him a better human being while acknowledging Schiano's flaws.
No coach in football today, on any level, is more scrutinized than Schiano, especially with the Buccaneers at 0-4. That scrutiny will only get worse now that Josh Freeman has been released. Freeman is gone, so the excuses for Schiano are now drastically reduced.
Teel says when he sees and hears some of the stories about Schiano in the media now, some of them he can believe, and some he doesn't. When there were reports that Freeman was in the first stage of the NFL's drug program, some in the league believed Schiano was the source of the leak. Schiano vehemently denied this.
"I guarantee you, Schiano didn't leak anything to anyone," said Teel. "That is not a Schiano type of thing."
Other things, like players possibly not liking Schiano, Teel can believe.
"The NFL and college are two different worlds," said Teel. "His style is, 'We're going to do it this way. If you don't like it, I'll find someone else.' His style can fit in the NFL, but if you don't win, it can be hard to follow."
That is the root of Schiano's NFL's problems and why he is perhaps doomed in the pros. Schiano never tamed his college-y, drill sergeant methodology. He never adjusted to a league where the players have almost as much say as the coaches. Schiano tried to be Bill Parcells, but Parcells won games and Schiano hasn't won anything yet.
That is where the disconnect remains.
Teel knows about Schiano and college football, but Teel also knows the pro football world. Teel was an excellent college quarterback and part of the 2006 Rutgers team that featured a number of future pros, including running back Ray Rice.
Teel led Rutgers to a 9-0 start that season and an improbable win over third-ranked Louisville. It was perhaps the biggest win in school history and a boost to Schiano's status as a potential NFL coach.
Teel tells a story that exemplifies both Schiano's strengths that worked in college and why those qualities are now a weakness for him.
Early in the week before that historic Louisville game, Teel had a bad practice. Schiano normally worked with the defense, but after Teel's problematic afternoon the day before, Schiano spent the entire practice with the offense the following day, harassing Teel.
Schiano would scream at Teel after almost every throw.
"Throw it away!"
"That's a sack."
The abuse went on and on. Once practice concluded, Schiano approached Teel.
"I was ready to tell him to shut up," Teel said, "but before I could, he said, 'Just getting you ready.' Then he walked away. I got it at that moment."
In the NFL, when Schiano tries this type of technique, players probably look at him and say, "You coached at Rutgers. What do you know about the pros? Shut up."
The only way that NFL attitude will change is if Schiano starts beating everyone. So far, however, the Buccaneers are winless this season.
"My advice to the Bucs players is to have thick skin and be mentally tough," Teel said. "His intentions are good, even if you sometimes hate the way he acts."
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