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Originally published September 22, 2012 at 5:29 PM | Page modified September 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM

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Playing hard to the end of the game just a part of football

Opponents should expect an effort out of Tampa Bay on every play

Seattle Times NFL reporter

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You know, this is just the sort of tough, hard nosed, play-till-they-blow-the-whistle t... MORE
Yes, players need to play hard until the end. But as yesterday showed the world, coach... MORE
Danny sounds like he's trying to have it both ways in this column, but there's a faint... MORE

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Greg Schiano coached his team to do something amateurish and overaggressive on the final play of his team's game last week.

He had his Tampa Bay defense play hard when the New York Giants were clearly going to run out the clock.

The nerve of Schiano, huh? He actually told his Bucs to line up and fire off the line at the snap like it meant something, and before quarterback Eli Manning could take a knee he wound up on his back.

Schiano wound up getting an earful from Giants coach Tom Coughlin, which prompted seven days of high-minded navel gazing about appropriate conduct in the pros. And after all that, I'm not sure what's dumber: The fact Schiano coached his team to do that in the first place or the widespread indignation that followed.

It's football. The idea that you shouldn't be able to play hard on the final snap of the game because it violates some sort of gentlemen's agreement is laughable.

There was nothing sneaky or cheap about what happened on that play. The Bucs' line did nothing to disguise its intention of firing off at the snap, their stances giving every indication what was in store.

Dirty is twisting an opponent's leg after a tackle. Cheap is knocking someone into the pile after the whistle. Lining up like you're going to hit someone on a play and then doing it? That's football, and if someone had gotten hurt on the play, the Giants would have no one to blame but themselves. After all, their job is to protect the quarterback, and if a defense isn't going to roll over and play dead, then by all means feel free to block somebody.

Not that Schiano was right in this instance. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Contesting the final play as the Bucs did was pointless, and no matter how many examples Schiano cites of when it worked, does anyone really think that's going to work in the NFL?

This wasn't about strategy or success. The play's importance was symbolic, Schiano trying to send a message to his players. What it showed most clear is that Schiano is that annoyingly rigid, uptight kind of competitor who doesn't believe in gimme putts for his golf partner. He's the kind of guy who'll make you prove it in H-O-R-S-E instead of taking his fate in his own hands and taking the last-chance shot himself. Instructing his defensive linemen to contest that final play is just the kind of Joe College fake hustle that a wannabe drill sergeant like Schiano would love.

But instead of whining about the appropriateness of what happened, how about just taking Schiano at his word that his team will always play hard to the final whistle? Stick it to him next time. He forfeited forever the right to complain or bristle about the decisions made by an opposing coach. Someone runs up the score on him? You play hard until the game is over. The opponent throws passes in the fourth quarter, up by three touchdowns? Just trying to compete.

That should be the comeuppance. The Giants, and any other team for that matter, should now feel they have the right to pour it on if given the opportunity.

That's what makes football great. This isn't baseball with its list of unwritten rules that have been invoked about something as trivial as a bunt in a no-hitter. Football has the capacity to be a self-cleaning oven. The rules allow you to hit back.

And somewhere along the line we've become uncomfortable with a good old-fashioned grudge in the NFL, and that's too bad. You don't have to like how the opposing coach has his team play or how he conducts himself, but there's nothing stopping you from hauling him out to the woodshed and administering a little justice.

Or you could just be prepared for the opponent to play hard to the final whistle. Either way, you don't have to worry about what the other guy's doing, let alone end up whining about it.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil


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