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Bucs benching Josh Freeman is a move for the future

TAMPA — Why now?

Why are the Bucs benching quarterback Josh Freeman now?

Why are they turning their back on a player who not so long ago seemed like the franchise quarterback they have been looking for since forever?

The Bucs are 0-3. That has something to do with it.

Freeman hasn't played well. That has a lot to do with it.

But mostly, it's about the future. It's about selling hope. And as far as the Bucs are concerned, Freeman has become hopeless.

Just two days after defiantly saying Freeman was his starting quarterback, coach Greg Schiano said making the move to rookie Mike Glennon was about giving the Bucs the best chance to win now.

That cannot possibly be true. There's no way a third-round pick who has never taken a real NFL snap gives you a better chance to win right now than a veteran who has started 59 NFL games and won 24 of them.

This has nothing to do with the right now. This isn't about trying to save the season or pump life into a winless team and a listless offense.

This is about the future — the long-term, not the immediate — regardless of what Schiano says.

And, of course, there's more to this. There always is when you make such a drastic change that even ownership was involved.

It's about Schiano trying to save his own job, knowing that turning the keys over to a rookie gives him a built-in excuse if the Bucs dive to the bottom of the league. It's about general manager Mark Dominik now sitting on the hottest seat in Tampa Bay seeing as how the quarterback he drafted has just traded in his helmet for a hat.

This isn't about turning to Glennon as much as it is turning away from Freeman. Looking back, his teammates turned on him three weeks ago when they didn't vote him captain. The coach, who never seemed to cozy up to Freeman, finally turned on him after three losses to start this season and, as Schiano is quick to point out, eight losses in the past nine games.

And Glennon? Well, his best quality seems to be that he is not Freeman.

The last time we saw Glennon, he was completing 7 of 16 passes with an interception and a fumble in the preseason against a bunch of Joe Schmoes who are moving furniture and tending bar today. He's not going to turn into Tom Brady or even Russell Wilson overnight. He's not going to step in and lead the Bucs to the playoffs.

He's likely to be even worse than Freeman.

But if you're going to struggle either way, if you're going to lose games regardless, if you're going to miss the playoffs anyway, isn't it better to do so with a quarterback you have hopes for as opposed to one you've given up on?

The Bucs are going nowhere with Freeman. And that's really what this is all about. Not only isn't Freeman improving, he's getting worse. The Bucs don't see Freeman's recent play as a mere pothole on his possible road to stardom. They see it as a turn down a dead-end street.

So if you're convinced he's not going to be your quarterback in a year, he shouldn't be your quarterback Sunday.

Two good things can happen by going with Glennon.

One is Glennon plays so well, he becomes your permanent quarterback.

The other is he is so awful, the Bucs win only a game or two and are in line for a franchise quarterback in next year's draft.

The worst thing that can happen is Glennon is just successful enough to keep you out of the running for an elite quarterback but not quite good enough to make you believe he can become your franchise quarterback. Come to think of it, that's exactly what Freeman has done with the Bucs, which is why he is now the backup.

But you're never going to know about Glennon until you play him.

Here's what we do know: It just wasn't working with Freeman. Even veterans who might dread the thought of starting over with a rookie QB can't put up an argument for Freeman.

Something has gone wrong. Maybe he has had too many coaches. Maybe he has had too many systems. Maybe he has lost his mojo on the field. Maybe he has lost his way off of it.

Sifting through all of the things Schiano and offensive coordinator Bill Sullivan said Wednesday, one theme kept coming through: Glennon's work ethic, maturity and preparedness. You couldn't help but wonder if they were really talking about Freeman's lack of those things.

Whatever the reason, Freeman's time in Tampa Bay must be over now that the Bucs have benched him. Trade him. Get whatever you can for him. And if you can't get anything, release him. But don't have him standing on the sideline.

You can't have Glennon looking over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake. And you can't have anyone — most of all, the players — clamoring for Freeman if Glennon struggles.

You can question if the Bucs and Schiano, if they doubted Freeman so much, should have had the guts to make this move before the season. But one thing you shouldn't question is finally making the move. It was time to bench Freeman. It's for the best.

Not for this Sunday. But for Sundays a year from now.

Tom Jones can be reached at tjones@tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Bucs benching Josh Freeman is a move for the future 09/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 11:37pm]
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