Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Both sides at fault in Freeman-Bucs divorce

TAMPA

Quarterback Josh Freeman went to the silent count.

For two days after his benching, he had nothing to say, violated his contract by not fulfilling media requests and shooed the public relations staff away when it encouraged him to face the music.

Then he arranged an unauthorized interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson at his home Thursday night.

A portion of it aired on SportsCenter that night. Here's his first response when asked if he wanted to be traded: "Well, there's been a lot of talk of this. There was talk of this before there was talk of this if that makes sense."

Uh, no, it doesn't Miss South Carolina.

During a later SportsCenter, ESPN ran the portion of the interview that almost made sense.

"The bottom line is if you want things to change, something has to change," Freeman said. "At the end of the day, yes, I think that moving forward, that is going to be the best option."

The Bucs will respond by demoting Freeman again today.

Wednesday, coach Greg Schiano said Freeman would back up rookie Mike Glennon. Instead, he will be inactive. (Dan Orlovsky will be the No. 2.)

"Josh just needed his voice to be heard," his agent, Erik Burk­hardt, said about the ESPN interview.

Freeman is getting bad advice.

It doesn't matter to me with whom Freeman chooses to speak. And the truth is the Bucs failed Freeman as much as he has failed them.

Start with the fact that once he moves on, there will not be a single member remaining on the roster of the Bucs' 2009 draft class, the first under general manager Mark Dominik. The club didn't exactly surround Freeman with weapons during his developmental years.

Freeman's talent is undeniable. You don't fake putting up 25 touchdowns, six interceptions and 10 wins in the NFL the way Freeman did in 2010. You don't set club records for passing yards and touchdowns the way he did last season unless you can play.

That said, he was never Schiano's quarterback. The biggest failure was not having the conviction to trade Freeman at the end of 2012. Instead, the Bucs didn't offer him an extension, tried to trade for Carson Palmer and drafted Glennon in the third round while Schiano insisted he was good with Freeman as the starter.

Even the benching was mangled. Schiano insisted after last week's loss to the Patriots and again Monday that Freeman gives the Bucs the best chance to win. Twenty-four hours later, after meeting with Dominik and ownership, he kicked him to the curb.

Freeman didn't need to go on national TV to demand a trade. The club had already agreed to move him before the Oct. 29 deadline. What's more, quarterbacks get hurt in this league. When the Bucs went to Chris Simms in 2004, he lasted one half before being knocked out by a shoulder injury.

Contrast Freeman's petulant reaction to his benching with that of quarterback Alex Smith.

The top overall pick in 2005 had been a bust with the 49ers until coach Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011. Rejuvenated, he led the Niners to the NFC title game, where they lost in overtime. He began 2012 by winning six of his first eight starts before sustaining a concussion against the Rams in November.

Smith was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Smith lost his job due to injury. The six quarters before his benching, Smith completed 25 of 27 passes (92.6 percent) for 304 yards and four touchdowns while earning NFC offensive player of the week honors after his final full game.

Glennon isn't Kaepernick, but that's not the point. Smith was admired for taking the high road, and his patience was rewarded when he was traded to the Chiefs this offseason.

Scott Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback at the time, said he could "write an essay about what it means to be a pro just from watching Alex."

Freeman has a lot of growing up to do. His final days will be remembered as much for what he didn't do off the field (missing his own youth camp and team picture and not being voted captain) as it will for what he didn't do on it (0-3, under 50 percent passing percentage).

But now he has gone from hurting his team to hurting himself.

A lot of this could have been avoided. Maybe somebody should have called Anderson, arranged an interview with Freeman and Schiano and let them talk it out. If that makes sense.

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