The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an absolute mess. The 2013 season has not at all gone according to plan for the NFC South franchise, and their 0-4 record only scratches the surface.
Bringing in Darrelle Revis in the offseason gave Bucs fans reason to be optimistic of the team’s chances heading into the season. If you would have told these fans that the Falcons would be 1-3 through a quarter of the season, they probably would have been jumping for joy and licking their chops at the prospect of their team reclaiming the divisional title.
My how quickly things can go off course in the NFL. Drama has plagued Tampa Bay even more than it has the New York Jets this year, and that’s saying something. If you’ve read my articles for any period of time, you know the Jets always have something going on away from the field.
Tampa Bay has emulated, and perhaps, perfected the Jets in that they have become the perfect professional football soap opera.
Second year head coach Greg Schiano began to make waves in his first professional season when he instructed his players to go all out while opponents were kneeling down to kill the clock. Sticking to that plan after taking flak from the media, Schiano told reporters that the technique had generated fumbles earlier in his career. It was later discovered that this was not exactly a factual statement.
Now, building off of that minor controversy, Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman have developed a relationship as unhealthy as that between Walter White and Jesse Pinkman at the end of AMC’s Breaking Bad. The guys just don’t like each other.
It was not too long ago that Josh Freeman was a rising star in the NFL, owned in fantasy football leagues across the land and considered to be one of the future franchise quarterbacks by many.
Now, Freeman is backing up rookie third round draft pick Mike Glennon after being benched by Schiano. To put it nicely, Glennon was dreadful in his first NFL start.
Completing just 24 of 43 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, Glennon also threw for two interceptions against the Cardinals. He looked rattled by pressure and was often afraid to throw the ball down the field and as a result checked it down far more than he should have.
That marks a stark contrast to Freeman’s play. The former starter took his chances down the field, to see evidence of that one just has to watch a highlight reel of Vincent Jackson from 2012.
If this was just a matter of performance and a silly quarterback change by a winless team, we would not be talking about it. There is more to the Bucs drama.
Personal information from Josh Freeman leaked from Tampa Bay after it was reported that the quarterback was seeking a trade. Rumors are now swirling around the league that the information was deliberately given out from the organization.
The leaked information reveals that Josh Freeman is in stage one of the league’s drug program. The quarterback takes Adderall for ADHD, but in 2012 accidentally took Ritalin. He has since agreed to random, repeated testing for banned substances.
Defending himself after the leaked information, Freeman gave a statement to the media. “Let me be very clear. I have NEVER tested positive for any illegal drugs or related substances,” he wrote. “Further, I have agreed to take, and have PASSED 46 NFL-regulated drug tests over the last year-and-a-half.”
The feud between Schiano and Freeman is out of control. It is clear that the two men are currently not willing to work with one another.
That is not good for a locker room. If players are forced to choose between the two men, a split will inevitably develop, if one has not already. If that split gets out of control, 0-4 is not where the losing and negativity will stop.
Both men should consider themselves working to save their jobs from this point moving forward. The best way for Freeman to make his case is to lead his team to victory on the field.
Going along with that, the best way for Schiano to prove he is the man who should be coaching Tampa Bay is for the Buccaneers to win football games.
Freeman gives that team the best chance to win.
Both men have something to gain from resolving their differences, and need to find a way to do so immediately if they want to continue to do what they love.
If Freeman rides the pine for Tampa until he hits free agency, teams will view the talented young passer as damaged goods, someone who could once again become a headache.
Should Schiano lose the locker room, he will surely be out as a head coach, and perhaps not see another opportunity to lead an NFL team for a long time.
Kiss and make up, it’s the only way for Freeman, Schiano, and the Buccaneers to move forward.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express