Saturday, January 20, 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]

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