Mark Barron: The new 'Buccaneer Man'
April, 26, 2012
By Pat Yasinskas | ESPN.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Before he was even asked a question about his first pick as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Greg Schiano was painting a portrait that probably still is invisible to most Tampa Bay fans.
Schiano had just stunned his fan base -- and probably the rest of the world -- by taking Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 7. A safety at No. 7? This guy had better be the second coming of Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed put together or, at very least, John Lynch Jr. You don’t take a safety at No. 7, and say you gladly would have taken him at No. 5, unless you think he’s special. Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik definitely thought Barron was special.
“I think he fits into what we do defensively perfectly,’’ Schiano said. “You couldn’t draw it up any better.’’
That probably doesn’t excite you, especially if you wanted the Bucs to stay put at No. 5 and draft LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. And I know there was a contingent of Tampa Bay fans who thought Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly would be a perfect fit after the Bucs traded out of No. 5 and Claiborne went to Dallas at No. 6.
Either of those would have fit the profile of what we’ve come to expect from the Buccaneers, stretching back to Tony Dungy, running through the Jon Gruden era (with Monte Kiffin as the bridge) and right through the ugly final days of Raheem Morris.
But here’s the thing: Those days are over. This is Schiano’s team now.
Unless you’re a die-hard Rutgers fan, you don’t have any clue what a Schiano team looks like. Even if all your Knights are scarlet, you might see some changes as Schiano adjusts to the NFL. He’s not about to publicly share his X's and O's, but he certainly has implied this team is going to look a lot different in a lot of ways. Believe it or not, that might start at safety because Barron is going to be tied to Schiano forever, for better or worse.
“I think our safeties have to be more dynamic than in most schemes,’’ Schiano said.
At 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, Barron is big enough to play in the box and make an impact on a run defense that needs improvement. With 12 career interceptions, Barron also has shown the ability to make plays in coverage.
“He needs to be able to do a lot of things, and he is capable of them,’’ Schiano said.
He’s going to have to cover wide receivers man to man, Schiano said. That’s a change from the days of Kiffin’s Cover 2, when safeties picked up wide receivers only after they got past the cornerbacks and Lynch often played the role of a linebacker. That may not be enough in an NFC South in which Drew Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards in a season and Cam Newton and Matt Ryan can put up big numbers. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not just an NFC South trend. All around the league, teams are throwing the heck out of the ball.
“Safety has become an extremely important position now,’’ Dominik said.
More important than cornerback? Where the Bucs have Eric Wright, an aging Ronde Barber and a question mark in Aqib Talib?
Obviously, the Bucs think so. Dominik said the Bucs would have chosen Barron at No. 5 if they had stayed put. That means they would have chosen him over Claiborne, who was widely considered the best cornerback in this draft.
That’s a pretty strong statement from a team that has chosen only two defensive backs in the first round in its history and both of those were cornerbacks. There’s even a bit more pure football logic about this pick.
The Bucs had a big need at safety after releasing Tanard Jackson. They were left with Cody Grimm, a possible move to safety by Barber and not much else. Barron fills that need.
But I don’t think this pick was completely about X's and O's and pure football ability.
Marvin Gentry/US Presswire"You couldn't draw it up any better," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of getting safety Mark Barron.
I think the selection of Barron was another sign that Schiano is going to do things much differently than in the past. Something obviously cooled the Bucs on Claiborne. Maybe it was that he reportedly had a low Wonderlic score or maybe it was something else.
Schiano said he and Dominik saw sparks the first time they watched film of Barron. By the time they interviewed him at the combine, there was a flame. As they talked about Barron, Schiano and Dominik both mentioned that he was a two-time captain for a team that won two national championships during his stint.
“He fits who we are and what we are,’’ Schiano said.
I get the impression Schiano cares a lot about what guys bring as players, but I’m getting an even stronger sense he cares about what they bring as people and how that can translate into winning. That’s sort of a new concept around here, at least since the Dungy days.
“He fits who we are and what we are,’’ Schiano said.
In other words, the Bucs think Barron can step right in and be a leader on a team that desperately lacked leadership and personality in the Morris days.
“Our coaches are excited to get their hands on him and mold him into a Buccaneer Man,’’ Dominik said.
We’ve heard the phrase “Buccaneer Man’’ a lot since Schiano took over. The problem is we have no idea what the new Buccaneer Man is supposed to be. But now we’re starting to get a bit of a portrait.
With Barron, there’s a face and maybe an outline of a body and a personality. Looks a little like a good athlete, a natural leader and a guy who was asking if there was a way to get his hands on a playbook Thursday night, even though he’s scheduled to fly to Tampa first thing Friday morning.
Maybe the Barron pick doesn’t look so bad -- or blank -- after all.