QB Josh Freeman Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How does a 5th Year Starting QB get Benched?

How does a 5th Year Starting QB get Benched…

…and a Rookie 3rd Round Pick get Named the Starter?

Buccaneers 3 Patriots 23

Jan Boger Official Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fan Reporter
Jan Boger Official Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fan Reporter

Okay, who wants to read about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-3, and how they really could have been competitive against the New England Patriots, but yet again shot themselves in the foot? No one!

What everyone really wants to hear about is all the drama going on in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. How does a 5th year quarterback who was a 1st round pick got benched and a rookie 3rd round pick get named starting quarterback in his place?

First things first, let’s look at some history. The Bucs won the Super Bowl XXXVII 10 years ago. For years after, the Bucs were held hostage with no high draft picks, because they gave them up along with a whole lot of cash to obtain Jon Gruden, their Super Bowl winning coach. Five years ago, then HC Raheem Morris drafted Josh Freeman out of Kansas State with not much of a resume, except that he was a big kid with some decent skills. The Bucs owners, the Glazer family, continued to be cheap, not pumping money into getting an established coach or quality players in free agency. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fan base and season ticket sales continued to dwindle, and the Bucs started looking like the Bucs of old, like in 1983 when they started an NFL-record 13 straight seasons with ten or more losses. After 3 years with free spirit Raheem Morris, the Buccaneers hired Greg Schiano, a college coach with not much of a winning record (68-67 in a weak Big East conference), but some limited NFL experience. He is also a hard-nosed disciplinarian who was thought to be an upgrade over Morris. Buccaneers’ fans are finding out that Schiano might be a control freak who micromanages everything, despite having 28 coaches on staff. A control freak who keeps the meeting room temperature at 60 degrees so players will stay awake. A control freak who dictates that players cannot do an interview without a Buccaneers’ PR person present. With the hiring of Greg Schiano, the Glazers opened their wallets to free agency, adding offensive and defensive weapons to the Buccaneers’ roster.

Finally in September 2013, the Buccaneers were poised to once again be competitive in the NFL, and chase the post-season. How could the season that seemed to hold such promise be going down the tubes so early? There is some interesting speculation in Tampa Bay creating all this drama. Here are a few of the theories, and a whole lot of speculation!

QB Josh Freeman in Mid Throw Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Josh Freeman in Mid Throw
Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Theory #1: Benching Josh Freeman is a conspiracy, and with the Bucs being 0-3 it only makes it easier. It doesn’t matter that Josh Freeman wasn’t responsible for any of the 3 losses. In Josh’s defense, he holds many Buccaneer offensive records, and he has had 4 different offensive coordinators in 5 years. In the last 6 out of 9 losses, Josh Freeman left the game with the Buccaneers winning; therefore, it was the defense that lost those games. Some believe that because Josh Freeman was not “Schiano’s guy,” it would be sooner rather than later that he would replace him. Before the season started, radio stations were giving away prizes to callers who could choose which week the QB change would occur. That’s why Schiano drafted Mike Glennon in the 3rd round, that’s why Glennon played most of the preseason, and that’s why he has been taking reps with the #1s, which was just revealed a few days ago.

Theory #2: Benching Josh Freeman was really a conspiracy designed by the Glazers, because they did not intend to offer him a new contract next year. And if they weren’t going to give him a new contract, why not bring in the new guy now? Interestingly, if you look around Raymond James Stadium and at the marketing of the Buccaneers this year, you really don’t see many images of Josh Freeman. There aren’t many murals or pictures of him. Is it because it was planned that he would not be a big part of the 2013 Buccaneers?

Theory #3: Josh Freeman has had 5 years to develop, and hasn’t progressed. This is a critique of Josh Freeman’s abilities: “Fails to step into his throws or square his shoulders at times, relying on his arm strength too often. Inconsistent accuracy from the pocket and throwing on the run. Needs to anticipate downfield throws better, sometimes getting the ball to his receiver a second early or late. Makes poor decisions trying to make plays that aren’t there, leading to turnovers. Doesn’t feel back-side pressure. Lacks touch on shorter throws. Ball comes out of his hands poorly at times, negating his arm strength. Sometimes pats the ball before the throws. Loose with the ball in the pocket and as a runner. Doesn’t move the pile as you’d expect in short yardage situations, but his height allows him to be effective”. Ironically, this is exactly what they are saying about Josh Freeman today, and this analysis was written about him after the 2009 NFL combine, before he was drafted. (NFL.com)

Theory #4: Josh Freeman is not as committed as the other players. He is late for meetings, he shows up 2 hours late for his own youth summer football camp, he showed up late for the team picture, and he was not voted a team captain by his fellow teammates. There is speculation that his teammates feel he is not focused on the task at hand.

QB Josh Freeman in Pregame Warmups Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Josh Freeman in Pregame Warmups
Photo by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What do I think about this drama, and what have I learned? I learned that I am very naïve. As a season ticketholder, I was so hopeful about the upcoming year. I thought all Josh had to do was play similarly to how he played the first half of the 2012 season, manage the offense, and with the upgrade in the defensive secondary, the Bucs would be on their way to a 9-7 or 10-6 season, and maybe position themselves to make the playoffs. I was pumped for the season to start. I blamed the 0-3 start on the HC and OC for a poor game plan and poor play calling. In Josh I trusted. When the rumors started I still believed, and when Josh was benched, I was sick and in shock. I didn’t think that Josh had played that bad. Wasn’t his passer rating skewed by dropped passes? Wasn’t he handcuffed by the OC?

I go back to the middle of the 2012 season at a home game, at the beginning of Josh’s downfall. He threw an interception; I saw the look on his face, his body language. I saw the same look on his face the first game against the Jets. I told my husband, “Something is wrong with Josh Freeman.” I don’t know what it is, I can only speculate, like the rest of Tampa Bay. I rationalize that there must be something very serious going on with Josh Freeman to make a Head Coach and a GM, whose jobs may now be in jeopardy, as well as the Buccaneers’ ownership all agree to bench their starting, seasoned, 5-year QB so early in the season for the likes of a 3rd round pick. There must be something! There has to be something! And the speculation continues.

 

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