Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dominik, Schiano share blame for Freeman debacle

These guys would foul up a cup of coffee.

The Bucs have taken what was once among the brightest young quarterbacks in all of football and, in the snap of a finger and before the kid's 26th birthday, managed to plow his confidence and career into the ground.

Way to go, fellas. Some organizations develop quarterbacks. You've sabotaged one.

So long to Josh Freeman, the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was released Thursday, his road to stardom crashing at the intersection of Dominik and Schiano.

General manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano? You have some 'splainin' to do. This came on your watch.

From franchise quarterback to being shoved out on the streets.

Three years ago, Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and won 10 games. I don't care who you are playing. I don't care how you did it. You just don't fall into such statistics in the National Football League.

Last season, yes, there were maddening moments, but Freeman set franchise records by throwing for 27 touchdowns and 4,065 yards. Again, you can't just be any Tom, Dick or Peyton and put up such prolific numbers.

Instead of getting better, Freeman got worse. Things spiraled so far out of control in the past five weeks that the Bucs couldn't get a thing for him. Not a mid round draft pick. Not a late-round conditional pick. Not even a kicking tee. And, oh, they still owe him about $6.2 million.

This story should not have ended this way. The Bucs could have done more, should have done more.

This isn't to say Freeman is blameless.

He is the one throwing passes that end up on the ground more often than in receivers' hands. He is the one who has won only one of his past nine games. He is the one who has thrown 12 interceptions in his past six starts.

Freeman clearly has issues off the field, starting with a serious lack of maturity.

He has missed meetings. Missed appointments. He couldn't even show up on time to have his picture taken.

His play has regressed. His leadership has petered out. His confidence has faded.

Maybe he isn't the hardest worker. Maybe his teammates knew what they were doing when they didn't vote him captain. Maybe Freeman has disobeyed team orders and ignored team rules.

Maybe his troubles run even deeper and more serious than that. By the end, he likely wanted out of Tampa Bay.

But here's what I keep coming back to: He's only 25. I don't say that to make an excuse for his behavior or his inconsistency on and off the field. I say that because someone that young is still salvageable, isn't he?

He's 25 and has already started 59 NFL games. He already has won 24 NFL games. He's 25 and has engineered nine fourth-quarter comebacks and 10 fourth-quarter winning drives.

And now he can't play anymore? He can't be fixed? He can't be helped outside the lines and refined between them?

The Bucs bungled Freeman's demotion from starter to third-string inactive so badly that they had no choice but to get rid of him. In a matter of days, so much bad blood and mistrust boiled up between Freeman and the Bucs that the relationship was damaged beyond repair.

It didn't have to be that way. Freeman isn't the first quarterback ever to be benched. It happens all the time, and it doesn't result in a barrage of TMZ-like headlines about drug programs and fines and leaked memos. It doesn't result in quarterbacks being ordered to watch the game from the so-called "inactive suite'' like he was some child being sent to sit in timeout.

Who are the adults here? Of course Freeman was going to act up, lash out, sulk. It was up to the grown-ups — Schiano and Dominik — to keep the story from turning into a bad soap opera.

Look, Schiano had every right to bench Freeman. If he didn't like Freeman's play of late, if he had lost confidence in Freeman, if he truly didn't believe Freeman could be his franchise quarterback, the coach owed it to himself and his team to make a switch to rookie Mike Glennon.

If Schiano wasn't really ever sold on Freeman, he should have cut ties with him in the offseason, although I wouldn't be surprised if ownership had a say in keeping Freeman in Tampa Bay. If Freeman was going to be here, the Bucs needed to do everything they could to see that he succeeded. It feels as if the Bucs bailed on Freeman as soon as things started to get a bit dicey.

In the end, this is just another black mark on the franchise. It looks bad because it is bad. It will look even worse if Freeman goes somewhere else and turns into a star.

It's hard to remember the last time the organization was in such disarray.

Hey, come to think of it, maybe by kicking him off the team, the Bucs are actually doing Freeman a favor.

Tom Jones can be can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Published: 04/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Published: 04/24/18
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Published: 04/24/18
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Published: 04/22/18
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18