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Penn State Coaching Search: Greg Schiano

New Jersey. The butt of many jokes around these parts*. Funny business aside, the flagship sports teams in the Garden State have long been of the professional type, even if many are shared within the greater New York City Metro region. Two NFL teams. Two MLB teams. Two, sometimes three, NHL teams. Two NBA teams. You could probably throw in the Philly teams for those weirdos in South Jersey.

One team that was long absent from the collective New Jersey sports fan base was the State University of New Jersey... Rutgers. A historically bad football team, only surpassed in traditional failure by Temple, Rutgers had five winning seasons total from the time I was born until I was a senior at Penn State. Twenty one years of mediocrity or downright failure, even against competition traditionally scheduled as "cupcake" walkovers by the power programs, plagued Piscataway.

But then, something happened. A new coach arrived in 2001. His name was Greg Schiano, and he was determined to turn his home state's college football team into a winner... and he did just that.

We here at BSD have been running through the potential--even if they're somewhat far-fetched--candidates to become the next head coach at Penn State. From Happy Valley to Tennessee, Houston to Georgia, the list grows. Today, we're going to look at one man who's been mentioned more times than probably any other not already in State College. He is Greg Schiano, the current head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Head Coaching Record

Year Team Overall Conf Standing Bowl C AP
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Big East Conference) (2001–Present)
2001 Rutgers 2–9 0–7 8th
2002 Rutgers 1–11 0–7 8th
2003 Rutgers 5–7 2–5 7th
2004 Rutgers 4–7 1–5 6th
2005 Rutgers 7–5 4–3 3rd L Insight
2006 Rutgers 11–2 5–2 T–2nd W Texas 12 12
2007 Rutgers 8–5 3–4 T–5th W International
2008 Rutgers 8–5 5–2 T–2nd W
2009 Rutgers 9–4 3–4 T–4th W St. Petersburg
2010 Rutgers 4–8 1–6 8th
2011 Rutgers 8–4 4–3 T–4th Pinstripe
Rutgers: 67–67 28–48
Total: 67–67

Since when is a .500 coaching record impressive? When four of the five sub-.500 seasons come in the first four years, followed by six bowl bids (and four bowl wins) in the next seven years. After the landmark season in 2006, most expected Rutgers to become the new power in the more-favorable Big East (after Miami, VT and BC left for the ACC); but those people were idiots. One big season doesn't mean anything. And combine the recruiting battleground Schiano & Co. must compete upon (facing the likes of Penn State, Miami, USC, Notre Dame, etc...), and a Big East conference that only downgraded the product on the field, it was inevitable that Rutgers would be a good college football program, but would have a tough time ever entering the "elite" field of contenders.

But that's not an insult to Schiano or what he has accomplished at Rutgers. How many programs are truly evergreen superpowers that win 10 games more often than not? A dozen? Twenty or so? Winning eight games and earning a bowl berth 90 percent of the time isn't all that bad, especially for a program like Rutgers that was lucky to win eight games total over two seasons not that long ago.

Coaching Experience

Schiano arrived at Rutgers in 1989 as a graduate assistant under head coach Dick Anderson--yes, Penn State's former and current assistant coach Dick Anderson, who's Rutgers team beat the Nittany Lions in 1988. After Anderson was fired (a stupid move by Rutgers), Schiano accompanied him to Happy Valley to continue his graduate assistant work. In 1991, Schiano was promoted to full-time defensive backfield coach, grooming the likes of Darren Perry, Leonard Humphries, Derek Bochna, Kim Herring, Brian Miller, Shawn Lee and others.

Following the 1995 season, Schiano was invited by Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt to be an assistant defensive coach. Schiano was promoted to defensive backfield coach in 1998, but was shown the door when Wannstedt was fired following the season. It was probably the best turn of events for Schiano's career, as he would quickly land a job in Coral Gables with Butch Davis' Miami Hurricanes.

Schiano was the Canes' defensive coordinator for only 18 months, from the summer of 1999 to December of 2000. In that time, Schiano's defenses were ranked 15th (1999) and 5th (2000) nationally. The Canes were voted No. 2 by both human polls in 2000, but were passed over for a BCS Championship Game spot, instead watching Florida State--even though Miami beat FSU head-to-head during the regular season--go on to lose to Oklahoma for the national title. Schiano's reputation might have been way bigger had UM been in, or especially won, the BCS Championship that year.

When the Rutgers job opened up in 2000, Schiano was offered the spot. He accepted.

Coaching Philosophy

If there were a coach out there who would come closest to resembling what Tom Bradley might be as head coach, it's Schiano. A defense-first philosophy was solidified when he assumed control of the defensive coordinator responsibilities from 2004 through 2008. It was an unpopular move among pundits and fans, many attributing the decline in Rutgers' defensive performances in 2009 and 2010 to the change. On offense, Schiano's offenses have traditionally leaned on the run game to set up the pass.

First, here's how Schiano's defenses have done since 2005. (For an explanation of S&P+, please see here.)

Year Total Defense (yds/game) Rank Scoring Defense (pts/game) Rank Defensive S&P+ Rank
2005 372.33 55 25.58 59 93.9 69
2006 252.23 4 14.31 8 134.6 5
2007 327.54 17 22.46 32 111.5 34
2008 326.92 33 18.85 19 105.1 48
2009 307.77 18 17.92 16 103.7 48
2010 374.17 65 26.50 62 91.8 80
2011 314.42 13 18.75 12 119.8 18

And the offenses...

Year Total Offense (yds/game) Rank Scoring Offense (pts/game) Rank Offensive S&P+ Rank
2005 397.08 44 28.67 48 99.9 59
2006 345.08 58 29.77 22 111.5 26
2007 449.31 18 32.77 33 110.5 36
2008 398.38 33 29.00 39 114.1 29
2009 326.31 97 28.85 52 87.0 101
2010 294.82 114 20.83 101 86.0 101
2011 336.50 100 26.33 66 84.4 106

Fit - Cultural, Personnel, Etc.

Schiano prides himself in running a rather tight ship, though he's not really considered a strict disciplinarian. Rutgers players usually stay away from trouble, while the program has avoided any real run-ins with the NCAA. Schiano is a New Jersey native, so he has the strongest of ties to his home state and the program he's built into somewhat of a national name (again, rather than a national punchline). The product on the field hasn't been lights-out since 2006, but it's been better than most BCS auto-qualifiers can stick in their hats.

The problem is that not only was Schiano in a working relationship with Joe Paterno and Penn State, he worked closely with Jerry Sandusky. Granted, Schiano was only in State College for six seasons, and quite low on the totem pole for the first few of them. But the connection would definitely be made, even for the moronic media we know today. It will surely be brought up.

Recruiting would hardly miss a beat, with Schiano already getting more elite New Jersey recruits than Rutgers probably has ever gotten before. He's even stolen a few away from Penn State, and recruits well in not only the northeast region, but also in Florida due to his ties with Miami.

Without the generally weak ties to Sandusky, Schiano probably would be a favorite to get the job. He understands the Penn State culture, plays a style of football that would make the transition very easy for the current team personnel, and is young enough for the university to get a long-term solution at head coach.

What is your thought on Schiano as a candidate?

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Previous Candidate Profiles:

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC

Tom Bradley, Penn State Interim HC

Tim Murphy, Harvard HC

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans (NFL) HC

Mark Richt, Georgia HC

(*You shouldn't exactly be talking... I mean, c'mon... you're from Pennsylvania... or worse... New York... or the absolute worst... Ohio!)