FOXBORO -- Greg Schiano is a polarizing figure in the world of college football. But ask Bill Belichick about the former Rutgers head coach, and he'll have nothing but good things to say.
Schiano's name found its way into headlines across the country on Sunday as USA Today reported that he had emerged as the front-runner for Tennessee's head-coaching vacancy. But before anything became official, the Vols decided to back out of the deal due to fan backlash.
"Yeah, I think Greg’s a tremendous coach," Belichick said after his team beat the Dolphins, 35-17. "I’ve learned an awful lot from him and had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with him when he was at Rutgers and Stephen was at Rutgers and I’d go down there. The lacrosse and the football programs are in the same building."
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Belichick's son Stephen played football and lacrosse for the Scarlet Knights, and Stephen served as a long-snapper under Schiano as he got a taste for what it might be like to coach football after college. Stephen is now the Patriots safeties coach, where he works with former Schiano pupils Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon.
Schiano left Piscataway, New Jersey in 2012 to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching job after bringing Rutgers to bowls in six of his final seven seasons there. He's currently in his second season as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
"At Tampa and the couple of years after Tampa was really even better for, I would say, my relationship with him because he had those last two years in the NFL and I’ve learned an awful lot from him," Belichick added. "He’s given me a lot of -- we talk about things that they did in their program, that he did in Tampa, that really had a lot of relevance to what we do. So did Rutgers, but it’s a little bit different in the NFL.
"He’s done a great job at Ohio State. He’s one of the very best coaches I think in our profession. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Greg and the way he runs his program and the job that he does."
It's not just lip service. Belichick has invested in Schiano's players many times over. Logan Ryan, Jonathan Freeny, Tim Wright and Tiquan Underwood were all Rutgers products. Lesser-known players like Steve Beauharnais, Quentin Gause, Alex Silvestro, Justin Francis, Kevin Snyder and others have spent varying amounts of time in the Patriots locker room.
"I would say the most impressive thing for me is the way that our players, which we’ve had a lot of Rutgers players come through here, the loyalty and the I would say love of the program, the college program that they were in at Rutgers when he was there, how they maintained that for years and years after they had left," Belichick said. "Not taking anything away from any other school, but I would just say that it’s extremely strong. I think the relationship that [Schiano] has with his kids, with his players and how well-prepared his players are to come into this league is exceptional.
"I didn’t know that [he was reportedly close to being named the head coach for Tennessee], but it’s good for him. He’s a great coach. I’m sure he’ll be a great head coach. Again, he’s done an awful lot. He’s helped me in a lot of different ways and I have a lot of respect for him."