The scene around Tampa at One Buc Place has been akin to a soap opera for the past week. Quarterback Josh Freeman wasn’t elected as a captain, the team had an emergency players-only meeting shortly after, and then news broke that Freeman missed a team photo.
On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the New Orleans Saints 16-14 on a last-second field goal as time expired. In Week 1 the Buccaneers lost to the New York Jets on a field goal with two seconds on the clock.
Tampa Bay is now 0-2 and has lost both games in the final two seconds of regulation by a combined total of three points.
To say last week’s soap opera in Tampa is going to continue into next week would be an enormous understatement.
Even though Schiano and Freeman both claim their relationship is fine, according to the Tampa Bay Times, common sense would suggest otherwise.
Schiano took over as head coach last season, inheriting Freeman as his quarterback.
By Week 3 last season, according to Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times, it seemed Schiano didn’t trust Freeman with the football.
From the start of the second half Sunday against the Cowboys until the two-minute warning, the Bucs trailed, yet they ran the ball on eight of nine first-down plays. Trailing by nine points with less than three minutes left, the Bucs called for a running play on first down.
Schiano has turned Freeman into a robot, a caretaker instead of a playmaker, a quarterback too scared to make a mistake to make a play. Freeman seems to be handing off more than the ball when Schiano asks for one running play after another. He is handing off his swagger, his confidence, that something special that had many of us believing he was going to be a franchise quarterback.
But Freeman went on a run of elite-level production from Week 6 to 11 where he threw 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He faltered wildly down the stretch, and the franchise took steps to show it didn’t trust Freeman either.
Not only did general manager Mark Dominik not extend Freeman’s contract as the quarterback entered the final year of his rookie deal, the Buccaneers drafted Mike Glennon in the third round to compete with Freeman.
Almost ever since, the team and head coach have allegedly been making moves to the detriment of Freeman.
The players-only meeting was rumored by Pro Football Talk to be about Schiano removing votes from Freeman so the quarterback couldn’t be elected as a team captain. After that news started finding its way around the Internet, a weird anonymous tip filtered through the Tampa media.
Apparently Freeman had missed a team photo earlier. That came from an unnamed source.
Jenna Laine at Sports Talk Florida hypothesized that the timing of Freeman's missed photo news screamed like it was a plant from the team. Could someone who works for the Buccaneers have released the information about Freeman missing the team photo to direct attention away from Schiano and focus it on Freeman?
That’s an X-Files-level conspiracy. But the idea’s been floated out there.
Instead of worrying about tallying votes or planting news that paints Freeman in a negative light, should Schiano and the Bucs brass be more worried about Schiano’s job?
Not only has Tampa Bay’s 0-2 start to the season been marred by late mistakes, play has been sloppy all around and the team looked ill-prepared for NFL play in 2013. Against the Jets, the Buccaneers were penalized 13 times for 102 yards. It was an unnecessary roughness penalty by linebacker Lavonte David that put the Jets in field-goal position late with a chance to win.
In Week 2, after a week’s worth of practice sessions to solve the penalty issues, Tampa Bay was penalized 10 times for 118 yards against the Saints. An excess number of penalties typically points towards an undisciplined team, possibly one that’s not coached well.
Could Schiano be losing control of his team?
Schiano rules with an iron fist, micromanaging the day-to-day routine of his team with the coordination of a drill instructor.
That coaching style works well in college football, but it rarely lasts in the NFL.
If Schiano's players are starting to waver away from him, and their play on the field might suggest that, it won’t take long for Schiano to be run out of town.
And a look at Tampa Bay’s schedule reveals that no relief is in sight.
The Buccaneers travel to New England next week and then host the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 prior to a bye week. After that, Tampa Bay hosts the Philadelphia Eagles and travels to Atlanta to play the Falcons.
How tense would the player-coach or coach-management relationship be if after Week 7 the Buccaneers were 1-5 or 0-6?
Maybe Schiano not only needs to bury the hatchet with Freeman, but he should clear the air about every question that’s lingering around One Buc Place. If Schiano has to meet with every player individually, is that not a good way to reclaim control of the team?
Schiano would do well to find a way to fix his team’s play on the field and stop, either directly or indirectly, perpetuating the anti-Freeman trend.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
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