Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Might be time for Bucs to pull plug on Freeman

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

By the time the Bucs got around to their most exciting play of the day, most of the crowd had gone home. It was late in the game, and only those fans who wanted to pick at the Bucs' corpse remained.

It was then, with eight minutes to go, that Mike Glennon took a couple of steps toward the field.

Could it be?

Well, no. Glennon was just pacing. He never warmed up, and he never went into the game, and coach Greg Schiano said later that he never considered it.

What did you expect? The Bucs, after all, were committed to doing nothing on offense.

Sigh.

Here we are, three games into a season that has already lost its promise, and we are looking to the sideline for answers that probably don't exist. Every week, Josh Freeman loses a few more of his defenders, and a bit of his grip on the starting job. Already, we are discussing when the change will come from a quarterback who isn't going anywhere to a quarterback who isn't ready to go anywhere.

Around here, what is left?

Oh, Glennon is coming, ready or not. After the back-to-back-to-back stains that Freeman has put on his resume, that seems inevitable. If things continue to unravel, sooner or later, a coach has to make a change. He can say he's searching for a spark or say he's looking for a new beginning, but he makes a change. Maybe it's during the bye week. Maybe it's halfway through the season. Maybe it's down the stretch.

So far, Freeman has given fans little else to talk about. For the third straight week, he had a quarterback rating less than 70. For the third straight week, he completed less than half his passes. For the third straight week, the Tampa Bay offense could not move on any of the game's most important plays.

Man, does this offense make your eyes hurt. It is like watching small furniture movers carry heavy chests upstairs, pausing and dropping from the sheer effort of it. For heaven's sake, Tampa Bay fans know bad offense when they see it. Over the years, we have seen a lot of plodders finish plays short of first-down markers.

This offense? It is dreadful beyond what the talent suggests it should be. A huddle of Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams has no business being among the worst in the league. Blindfolded players could find the end zone more often. For crying out loud, the Rays scored as many runs Sunday as the Bucs did points.

Maybe that's why Sunday's game was so frustrating for Bucs fans. Heck, they certainly moved the ball. On their first drive, they drove it 55 yards. On their second, they moved it 76. And they wound up with three points.

On their third drive, they went to the Patriots 34. On their fourth, they went to the Patriots 38. On their eighth drive, they went to the Patriots 34. On their 10th, they went to the Patriots 17.

All of that is very impressive, until you calculate all the points that came after the field goal and you wind up with, let's see, zero.

Now, break down Freeman's efforts. On the 60 yards that are farthest from the Patriots end zone, he was impressive. He hit 15 of 22 passes for 191 yards. Ah, but from New England's 40-yard line and in, he was 4-of-19 for 45 yards.

And that's the thing. The Bucs are simply wonderful at pulling nothing out of a promising drive. They'll move the ball all right, and then they'll drop a touchdown pass or two, and they'll miss a field goal, or they'll throw four straight incompletions, or they'll fall short on third and 1. Put it this way: If the point of the game was not to score, this team might be going to the Super Bowl.

Frankly, you can boil this game down to two matchups. That of Bill Belichick vs. Greg Schiano, and that of Tom Brady vs. Josh Freeman.

Now, that might not seem fair, because the Patriots win almost every matchup between its coach and quarterback and those of the opposition.

But Brady is down to fresh bodies on his receiving corps. Wes Welker left because of free agency, and Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were out because of injury, and Aaron Hernandez is out because of his murder charge. And still, Brady is as efficient as a laser pointer.

As for Belichick, his team doesn't miss on a lot of the details. On a lot of the big plays, either.

Meanwhile, the Bucs are 0-3, and already, you can feel the season pulling away from them. And you can feel a rookie get closer to the huddle.

No, I don't think it will help. Glennon is still raw, and a rookie usually brings more questions than he does answers. It is hard to see Glennon as a cure.

When nothing is going right, however, a coach eventually has to try whatever change he can make. Asked about when you make a change, Schiano shrugged and said simply: "Whenever that's your best chance to win."

These days, Freeman isn't exactly shouting that he's the guy. Not when his three-game rating is 59.3. Not when his completion percentage is 45.7.

Is Freeman still the Bucs' best chance to win?

And if so, for how much longer?

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