Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Freeman didn't fit in Bucs' scheme

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If you can put aside the skipped meetings, missed team photo and accusations of leaked medical information and rigged captain votes, the real reason given by the Bucs for benching QB Josh Freeman was he didn't play well.

Forget that Freeman lost eight of nine starts before the plug was pulled. Or he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes during an 0-3 start this season.

The Bucs say they didn't like Freeman's inability to function within the structure of their offense.

Freeman has thrived during his career in chaotic situations, when plays broke down and he was able to extend them and drive downfield with his strong arm. The Bucs even tried to create some of those looks within their offense.

But Freeman was never the type of quarterback coach Greg Schiano wanted. You have to wonder if ownership or GM Mark Dominik prevented him from being put on the trading block after 2012, when his value was still high.

In the end, coaches say, it came down to Freeman's lack of production in a hopelessly stalled offense.

"I think you look at the numbers from the first three games, and a lot of it we didn't execute," quarterbacks coach John McNulty said. "He's 45 percent. You can come back and say, 'Well, here's four drops.' But in the end, I think you just evaluate the whole thing together, the production. And over time, where are we headed?

"It's certainly not an easy decision (to change quarterbacks). You know what the effect is on the community, the guy himself, the people in the locker room. It's not something that's taken lightly. But at some point, you have to call it. It was time."

One more factor, McNulty said: "Mike's progress had something to do with it."

That would be rookie Mike Glennon, who threw two interceptions over the final three minutes of his first start, a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals last week.

Glennon is a gym rat who can make all of the throws, a paint-by-the-numbers passer who will stick with his progressions and dissect defenses.

"He's a very intelligent, hard-working, grinding player, and this is his life," McNulty said. "It's the hardest job in football. I think it has to be your life. It has to be that important to you that you feel the weight of the whole team on your shoulders. You can't just go out there and say, 'Oh, I blew it.'

"As long as I think the players know this guy is grinding through everything … I think it makes the team feel like we can rally behind this guy."

But Glennon has a lot of growing up to do. The third-round pick from N.C. State isn't likely to produce like last season's bumper crop of rookies: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. His lack of mobility will put even more of a premium on protection. Freeman's scrambling covered up a lot of bad offensive line play.

"It's not to say he's never going to make a mistake, but rarely is he off mentally," McNulty said of Glennon. "He sees things very well, and he's just able to adjust very well to things. And he gets the ball out: physically, accurately, quickly. He's got that combination going.

"His brother (Sean) was a starter at Virginia Tech. He's been a football guy his whole life. He's a football junkie. That's sometimes who you are."

UH-OH LINE: A lot was made about the Bucs finally having guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks on the field together. But neither has played up to expectations.

There's a good reason for it. Joseph missed all of 2012 with a torn patellar tendon. Nicks missed the second half of 2012 with a plantar plate injury in his toe, contracted a MRSA infection this season and missed all of the preseason and the first two games of the regular season.

"At times, they've resembled what I think they're going to be," Schiano said. "At other times, no. You've got to remember Davin took 25 snaps (in the preseason), Carl none.

"I want it to be now, too. But we've got to give them a chance to all get cohesive. It's got to happen sooner than later. But I'm also not naive to the fact it's not plug and play."

Rick Stroud can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

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