If the rumors are true, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman is not head coach Greg Schiano’s guy.
There have been plenty of reports from media sources other than PewterReport.com, dating back to CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco last year, that have insinuated that there is friction between the tightly wound Schiano and the laid back Freeman.
Heck, there was even a rumor (and absolutely no evidence to support it) that Schiano might have rigged the team captains vote that stripped Freeman of his captaincy after three years. Schiano denied rigging the vote, and I believe him.
But the fact that was actually a rumor about Schiano potentially rigging the captain’s vote speaks to the apparent disconnect between the coach and the quarterback.
With the Buccaneers mired in a disappointing 0-3 start to the 2013 season and with the Freeman-led offense stuck in neutral (or reverse) ever since the preseason, now would be the logical time for Schiano to seriously contemplate switching quarterbacks to rookie Mike Glennon. Freeman, who completed less than half of his passes in the preseason, is completing less than half of his passes during the regular season.
Through three games, the Bucs offense has scored just 24 points, an average of only eight points per game. Freeman has completed 43-of-94 passes for 571 yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble.
Just how bad is Tampa Bay’s offense?
Consider that Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has thrown more touchdown passes (four) this season than Freeman (two).
Consider that Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson has yet to record a touchdown.
Consider that Jacksonville’s offense has outscored Tampa Bay’s offense, 26-24, to start the 2013 season.
There have been plenty of dropped passes, blown pass protection assignments and penalties to derail Tampa Bay’s offense through three games, but there have been plenty of mistakes by a veteran quarterback, who is in his fifth season in the NFL, that have contributed to the offense’s malaise, too.
With less than ideal stats to start the season Freeman has given Schiano plenty of ammunition already for a quarterback change.
“Our offense needs a spark,” Schiano could say diplomatically.
“Our quarterback isn’t even completing half of his passes,” Schiano could say matter of factly.
“Our players didn’t even vote Josh as a team captain this year,” Schiano could say if he wanted to throw Freeman under the bus.
Schiano may be contemplating a quarterback change in his mind out of necessity, but he may even want to do it because he’s not a big Freeman fan. After all, he inherited the former Kansas State star. Schiano didn’t draft him.
Schiano drafted Glennon in the third round this past April after trying to recruit him to Rutgers several years ago. Glennon is his guy.
But even though Schiano might want to pull the ripcord on Freeman, who happens to be in a contract year, and feel justified in doing so, he likely won’t for several reasons.
The first reason is one that Schiano acknowledged in his post-game press conference in New England. Freeman still gives the Bucs the best chance to win despite his struggles this year. The veteran has proven that he can operate in Mike Sullivan’s offense in becoming the first 4,000-yard passer in Tampa Bay history last season while throwing for a franchise-record 27 touchdowns in 2012.
If Glennon were ready in Schiano’s mind he would make the switch right now – this week. But the rookie is apparently not ready.
Instead, look for the bye week to be a more logical time for a QB change – if Freeman and the Bucs falter against the visiting Arizona Cardinals this Sunday and slip to 0-4. If he wanted to bench Freeman, the bye week would give Schiano, Sullivan and quarterbacks coach John McNulty more time to better prepare Glennon for his first NFL start against Philadelphia, a game that will take place at home, which is always better for rookie quarterbacks that are making their NFL debut.
But switching quarterbacks is a move fraught with potential peril for Schiano, who isn’t well liked by the Bucs players to begin with. Unless Glennon could come in and truly spark the offense, not play like a rookie, and win some games, benching Freeman, who is liked by the players, could backfire and cause him to totally lose the locker room.
Despite a 0-3 record Schiano doesn’t have much of a case he can make with the players to start Glennon over Freeman. The Bucs players know the offensive struggles have not all been the quarterback’s fault.
Freeman, who was sacked nine times and fumbled once in August, posted a QB rating of 56.7 in the preseason after completing 12-of-26 (46.1 percent) for 101 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He hasn’t gotten any better in the regular season as he’s completing just 45.7 percent of his passes.
While Glennon led the Buccaneers in passing during the preseason with 397 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, he completed only 33 of his 70 pass attempts (47.1 percent). Glennon was just about as inaccurate as Freeman was. The rookie was sacked four times and fumbled once during the preseason, while posting a QB rating of 61.4.
That’s not terribly impressive, and Glennon certainly won’t make anyone in Tampa Bay think of RGIII, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson when he takes the field this year. Glennon, who graduated from North Carolina State in December with his Masters degree, has the physical tools and the intelligence to develop into a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL – over time. Not right now.
Schiano has to realize that veterans like Jackson, guard Carl Nicks, free safety Dashon Goldson and linebacker Jonathan Casillas elected to come to Tampa Bay over the past two years in free agency to win now and make the playoffs. A 0-3 start with Freeman puts those hopes on hold. Inserting a rookie quarterback would likely dash those dreams for good in 2013.
The last thing Schiano needs is the veteran players, including two team captains in Jackson and Goldson, becoming angered at him for essentially giving up on the season so early and going with a rookie.
Benching Freeman would have to be a permanent move for Schiano, who doesn’t have enough political capital at One Buccaneer Place and has not established enough goodwill in the locker room to go back to the veteran later in the season if Glennon doesn’t pan out. Yanking Freeman and benching him for the rest of the year, would further fracture the relationship between the head coach and the starter as it would be essentially sabotage Freeman’s quest for a new contract in Tampa Bay or elsewhere by seriously damaging his market value.
In fact, if the Bucs were going to bench him, they would be better off trading Freeman in October – perhaps to Cleveland for one of the Browns’ multitude of high picks.
Schiano would love nothing more than to be developing Glennon right now as the third-round pick likely has more of a future in Tampa Bay than Freeman does at this point it seems. But the problem is that Schiano is 1-8 in his last nine games with the Buccaneers and his future in Tampa Bay could be quickly coming to an end if he doesn’t win this season.
Should the Bucs finish with a record worse than last year’s 7-9 mark, Schiano would surely be fired. The Bucs have to go 7-6 down the stretch to equal last year’s mark, and have to 9-4 in the remaining games just to post a winning record.
As much as Schiano might want to pull the plug on Freeman because he’s not the future of the franchise in his eyes, doing so would likely pull the plug on his career as Tampa Bay’s head coach. As much as he may not like it, Schiano needs Freeman need to play well against Arizona and the rest of the season to save himself.
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