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Schiano Battles History in Move to NFL

Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

What do Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Mike Riley, Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Dick MacPherson, Frank Kush, Rich Brooks and John McKay have in common?

They’re all football coaches who succeeded at the college level — and then flopped in the National Football League.

Greg Schiano will try to avoid adding his name to that dubious list.

For the last 11 years, Schiano patrolled the Rutgers sideline, transforming the Scarlet Knights from a perennial laughingstock into a program with national appeal. During his tenure, Schiano brought Rutgers to six bowl games — winning five of them.

Now he is charged with improving the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after agreeing to a five-year contract on Thursday.

The Bucs went 4-12 in 2011, ending the season on a 10-game losing streak that cost head coach Raheem Morris his job. The year before that, Morris went 10-6 and just barely missed the playoffs. That’s part of the challenge of coaching in the NFL — a “win now, or else” attitude prevails among franchises throughout the league.

Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

Will Schiano find success in Tampa? Only time will tell, but a number of roadblocks stand in his way.

Although it’s the same sport, coaching college football can be very different from the NFL. The college ranks require special attention to recruiting and teaching fundamentals, while the pros call more for player management. In a league where most players are paid more than their head coach, a balance of egos can be just as important as game strategy. Just look at the 2011 Jets, as an example.

Parity in the NFL also makes things tougher. There is no Norfolk State or North Carolina Central on the schedule, where a win by less than 20 or 30 points is a disappointment. Any team in the league can beat another team at any given time. That means an NFL coach must be on his game every week, or he risks facing the consequences.

The transition from college to the pros is not hopeless, however.

Betsy Peabody Rowe, Getty Images

After leading the University of Miami to the national championship in 1987, Jimmy Johnson took over for the legendary Tom Landry as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. In his first season, Johnson went a league-worst 1-15. But following some successful drafts and players buying into his system, the Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and ’93.

When Johnson left the Cowboys in 1994, former University of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer was hired by owner Jerry Jones to guide the team. A three-time national champion coach in college, Switzer added another Super Bowl win for Dallas in 1995.

Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Most recently, Jim Harbaugh has tasted college-to-pro success. Following a solid four-year run at Stanford that included an Orange Bowl victory in 2010, Harbaugh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers last winter to help restore franchise glory. In his first year at the helm, Harbaugh led the Niners to a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship game, before narrowly losing to the Giants last weekend.

Will Schiano lead the Buccaneers to a bounty of playoff appearances? Or will he be forced to walk the plank within a few years, joining the other college-to-pro also-rans?

This much is certain — whether you like it or not, he’s now in control of Tampa Bay’s pirate ship.

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