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Thursday, October 3, 2013
Inside Slant: Sweating the small stuff

By Kevin Seifert

Why in the world would an NFL coach build a discipline structure that even accounts for an "unauthorized interview," as an SI.com report attributed to Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano?

I'll tell you why: To manage the message, minimize distractions and hide the underbelly of team politics.

Greg Schiano and Josh Freeman
Coach Greg Schiano reportedly fined quarterback Josh Freeman several times in recent weeks.
Here's another way to achieve the same goal: Build a program that espouses a positive message, produces few distractions and has nothing to hide.

It takes two to tango, and so I don't think all the blame for the Buccaneers' current mess -- one that ended Thursday with Freeman's release -- rests with Schiano. But I always laugh when NFL coaches work to present a united front rather than simply creating one. If players and staffers buy into the program, if they like playing for the team or working in the front office, the chances of negative information reaching the media are naturally much lower.

According to the report, Schiano has fined quarterback Josh Freeman for conduct detrimental to the team several times in recent weeks. Among his offenses: Giving an interview that apparently had not been approved. The report did not specify the interview in question, but in Freeman's most recent in-depth comments, he told ESPN's Josina Anderson that he wanted to be traded.

All NFL teams have training camp media sessions to establish expectations for handling interviews. And there are certainly some coaches who want to be aware of who their players are giving interviews to. But you would be hard-pressed to find many examples of coaches requiring authorizations for interviews, or for punishing players for not getting permission to speak on the record to an established media outlet.

To me, every ounce of energy that Schiano spends monitoring interviews and/or dealing with their repercussions is one less ounce he has to spend on winning games. To my knowledge, no NFL game has been decided by an interview and no team has ever been given a trophy for the best media discipline.

It's called sweating the small stuff, and it's not the same as focusing on the details. The latter helps win games. The former is a waste of time, builds distrust and will contribute to Schiano's eventual downfall in Tampa Bay.