It didn’t have to be this way it really didn’t. What shame for a season so filled with hope and promise to have it take such a premature early downturn. We Bucs fans have been faithful. We’ve waited through a rebuild of a roster depleted by Bruce Allen’s mismanagement for five seasons, two head coaches, and one potential franchise QB. We’ve watched with baited breath as our hopes were raised and dashed to only, again, be raised and dashed.Make no mistake, this benching of Josh Freeman turns the page on an era (or error) in Bucs history. I’ve said my peace on it in another article, but I firmly believe that the next chapter, after this page, is the end of the Schiano era and probably Mark Dominik as well.
It still didn’t have to be this way. Josh Freeman came to us in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft and loyal fans began rooting and buying number 5 jerseys. I was a tad skeptical, that Freeman had top flight raw talent was often displayed at Kansas St but so were the flaws. Freeman didn’t dissect defenses quickly and was inconsistent with his footwork or accuracy. I had a second round grade on him and thought we reached, but I’m a Bucs fan so I hoped for the best.After a moribund start by Josh Johnson, Freeman was thrown into the deep end and played like a rookie.
2010 was the magical season against terrible competition that we all remember. Freeman seemed to blossom, he worked the ball to Kellen Winslow or Mike Williams catching the NFL by storm and producing 10 wins.The next season Freeman regressed, because the NFL, like it does with all young QBs, takes away whatever you are most comfortable doing.
Freeman’s biggest talent has always been his ability to find his best offensive weapon and place the throw where his man has a chance to make a play. His problem is that he’s never been able to add a counter punch once the defense makes that throw too challenging to be consistent. When Vincent Jackson left Sunday with a rib injury across the screen flashed "Has been targeted on 45% of Josh Freeman’s throws" Freeman hasn’t progressed. He’s still a one-weapon QB without any combination skills to keep defenses off balance. He can blame whomever he wants but at the end of the day he has not earned the right to call himself the Bucs franchise QB.
Organizationally though the responsibility for this does not stop with Freeman. It’s certainly acceptable, even advisable, to allow a rookie or very young QB to do almost only what he does best. Then to develop him, you slowly increase the number of things you ask him to do. As an organization the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done a TERRIBLE job of this. From a personnel perspective it really didn’t need to be this way; they have not given Freeman an incentive to seek out his third option on passing plays. I believe there may even be a sign inside Dom’s door stating the 11th commandment "Thou Shalt Not Give Freeman more than two competent receivers a season".
I won’t rehash the past in depth but I pointed out last season that any team with two good corners was able to shutdown our offense. You’d think we’d learn yet look at our WR’s #3-5 and our TE’s . Page and Ogletree are fringe NFL WR’s and Shephard should be on the practice squad, from 3-5 this is one of the bottom 5 groups in the league. At TE, forget about it, we are 32nd, dead last, in terms of talent at the position, no one is worse; no one!
Our collective coaching staffs cannot escape responsibility either. How complete of a job would you say we’ve done masking Freeman’s flaw? How good of a scheme have we produced to take advantage of his skill set? More than that, Freeman’s leadership has been questioned an essential element of being an NFL quarterback. Leaders are not born, they're developed and molded. Whose job was it to mentor Freeman into being a leader of men, did anyone think to stop and ask the question? Clearly he had at least some instincts taking his O-Line to the Caribbean with him early on. It didn’t have to be this way, where our Franchise QB had the Captain label stripped from his uniform.
Sunday Mike Glennon will get his first career start against a pretty decent Arizona defense. Word is coming from Mark Dominik that they believe he can be a good game manager at QB. I did enough study on Mike Glennon’s tape at NC St. to know that long term, this isn’t going to work. He might be able to spark the offense but he’s very limited. He has a strong arm and can probably execute Sullivan’s offense but last I saw him he really struggled against zone coverage. If he gets an outside man look on either Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams he could have some success. However, he really does not read defenses well at all and has no natural feel for where safeties and linebackers are dropping back to. His accuracy and footwork though (see Freeman above) are also highly inconsistent.I’ll be hoping I’m wrong (as always) but I don’t see any way this ends well.
I don’t feel bad for Freeman losing his job, I won’t feel bad for Schiano when he loses his, and I don’t feel bad for Mark Dominik who obviously didn’t want to see his first ever pick go "bust" but who failed to make adequate personnel decisions to give him every chance to succeed. I don’t feel bad for the Glazer family who spent 120 million on payroll this season and handed out huge off-season contracts the past two years only to wind up with a talented but ineffective team that has yet to win a game. I FEEL BAD for the fans, not the naysayers but the ones who show up at this board at the beginning of every off-season bathed in the euphoria of hope; the ones who pray and expect for us to win 10 games a season, the fans who shrugged off 0-1 and 0-2, the fans who see the benching of Freeman and suddenly have hope that somehow Mike Glennon will turn into Matt Ryan and lead a miraculous comeback. These fans deserve better than to see a franchise QB who failed to take advantages of his opportunities, a GM who failed to provide him enough opportunities for success, and a disciplinarian head coach who somehow cannot manage to build a disciplined team. I have no doubts this season will be epically bad, organizationally this Bucs team has no leadership and no master plan, its priorities are askew and very shortly the effort you see from players won’t be for team but rather for themselves to ensure job security going forward. It didn’t have to be this way but it is and quite frankly you the fans deserve better.