When Greg Schiano looks across the field today he will be seeing his past and hopefully his future.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera came into the NFL a year before Schiano took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
Rivera had a rough start and has turned it around as Schiano hopes to do.
Rivera was 6-10 his first year and 7-9 last season, the same record Schiano produced in 2012.
They've both escaped the proverbial chopping block, and Rivera is in the hunt for an NFC South title and riding a seven game win streak.
There were a lot of jokes made about Rivera with people calling him ultra conservative and mockingly Riverboat Ron bringing up his 2-14 record in games decided by less than a touchdown. Schiano's 0-7 record in games decided by three points or less was also a popular topic.
Rivera started this season 0-2 and it seemed everyone in the state of North Carolina wanted his scalp. Then things turned. Faced with a fourth and one on the New York Giants 2-yard line, Rivera threw conventional tactics out the window and got a first down. Carolina won that game 38-0 and enters today at 8-3.
Rivera has empathy for Schiano. The two coached together under Dave Wannstedt in Chicago.
"Last year I was in the same situation and we got on a roll at the end of the year and now this year we've gotten on a roll again," Rivera said. "It's just so hard to win in this league. You've got to develop your team first. I think people have to be willing to take the lumps and accept it."
The last time these teams met Schiano was at his lowest point. Carolina handed the winless Bucs a 31-13 loss at Raymond James Stadium for their seventh straight defeat. It was noted on the nationally televised telecast that there were 19 signs calling for Schiano to be fired.
The Bucs had to travel to play at Seattle for their next game and the popular question was whether Schiano would be on the plane back home.
The Bucs lost to Seattle in overtime in what the Schiano supporters saw as a victory. Tampa blew a 21-0 lead, but it showed a run game for the first time and hope surfaced.
The Bucs have won three straight games in a streak that likely saved Schiano's job for 2014.
It has even created a scenario that for the first time in a month Schiano is coaching a game that he doesn't have to win to keep his job.
The changes he has made are subtle, according to the people closest to him.
"Really, (there's not) a trigger-point thing. Greg's done a good job of just being steadfast and consistent, and I think the players appreciate that," Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "They've just kind of stuck to the plan and now it's starting to show its benefit. It's really just perseverance and steadfastness. We really haven't changed that much. It's not like we were getting beat 45-0 every week, but we managed to screw things up enough in some fourth quarters."
Tampa's three victories could mean different things to different people. The Bucs beat a troubled Miami team that was dealing with the Richie Incognito scandal and dominated Atlanta, which arguably had given up on a season that began with Super Bowl hopes that were destroyed by injuries.
The Detroit Lions dominated the offensive stats last week, but turned the ball over five times while Tampa took care of the ball, got a few breaks and won.
"They're playing as hard as they've always played. It's just a matter of getting plays made and having the ball bounce their way." Rivera said. "I like who Tampa Bay is going to become and they're on their way. Coach Schiano's doing a great job. It's just again be patient and just stick with it."
The Bucs will face a Carolina team that leads the NFL in fewest points allowed (13.7 per game), has a strong front seven and is solid in the secondary. Quarterback Cam Newton is having his best season in his third year.
A victory today would put an entirely new spin on Schiano and his chances of having success in the NFL. It will likely have to come without cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is nursing a groin injury.
"We have to continue to play the brand of football that we're playing," Schiano said."
Offensively, we have to run the ball and they're going to be hard to run it against," Schiano said. "We have to throw the ball down the field and we have to mix it up, so that's what we're going to do. You're playing the hottest team in the league in their home stadium."