Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Get on Same Page with QB Josh Freeman
When it comes to Greg Schiano, the coach, there are few things more important to him than trust.
After all, he made it a point during his introductory press conference last year to acquaint Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans with the acronym "TBA," which in his words stands for "Trust, belief and accountability."
Judging from comments made at his end of year press conference when he publicly called for competition for his promising, yet erratic 25-year-old quarterback, Josh Freeman, it's safe to say Schiano may not completely trust Josh to get the job done under center.
Couple that with remarks the head coach made just last month from the owners meeting in Phoenix when he said:
"The reality is this is a performance-based game...to say you're married (to a player), well, nobody is married to anyone in this game. They're not married to me. You've got to win or I'm not going to be the coach."
Read into those statements as little or as much as you'd like, but the fact of the matter is neither Schiano nor the Bucs have exactly given Freeman, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next spring, a ringing endorsement heading into his fifth season with the franchise.
Which is of importance because if Freeman is not in their long-term plans, then it is incumbent upon them to figure out who is. While simply saying competition is on its way may sound good to frustrated fans, it's another thing altogether to draft someone with a realistic chance of eventually supplanting Freeman as starter.
And that is why getting on the same page with one another is so incredibly important for Schiano, general manager Mark Dominik and the rest of the scouting department.
Let's not forget that, in the 15 months Schiano has been at the helm, he has consistently delivered on his promises. He cleaned up the locker room by removing three troubled players last offseason, traded another midseason and improved their win total by 75 percent from the season prior.
So, if Schiano is saying he wants competition because he feels it increases their likelihood for success, chances are within the next two weeks Bucs fans will be getting to know another 20-something-year-old quarterback the team has drafted.
Frankly, given their stagnate free agency involvement, it's no longer a matter of if the Bucs will draft someone, but rather, who they'll draft at this point.
Whether it's a household name such as E.J. Manuel or Tyler Bray, or someone a little more under-the-radar like Zac Dysert or Colby Cameron is truly the bigger question.
Not that Freeman is making the decision an easy one for the organization.
After all, he is coming off not only his best season as a Buc, but, statistically speaking, the single-greatest season of any passer in franchise history in 2012, having thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Critics will point to his 17 interceptions as signs of developmental issues, but in fairness to Freeman, when looking at his entire body of work nine of his INTs occurred during the final three weeks of the season.
Does that excuse his lousy late-season performances? Certainly not, but it does shed a little light onto perhaps a bigger issue, which is of course ongoing concerns with accuracy.
Last season, Freeman failed to complete at least 60 percent of his passes in 11 of his 16 starts.
The Bucs lost seven of those eleven contests.
Were there other factors that led to some of those losses? Undoubtedly. But it doesn't change the fact that Freeman has backed his head coach and general manager into a proverbial corner because of his inconsistency.
Would the Bucs rather have locked-up their franchise quarterback long-term this offseason so that they could be focused on other positions leading up the draft?
Without a doubt.
Instead, they're left answering questions about the future and direction of the franchise. About whether or not some yet-to-be-drafted 20-something-year-old gives them a better chance for success than their fifth-year starter does next year and beyond.
But that's not even the worst part.
It has even gotten bad enough that some fans have called for Tim Tebow, as if his erratic, smash-and-dash style of quarterback play (and his career 47.9 completion percentage) is somehow more bearable to watch than Freeman's 55-percent completion rate and 27 touchdowns were.
Now that's bad.
Ultimately, Schiano and Dominik will have to come to some sort of an agreement on how they're going to get where they need to be.
If Freeman is the best choice moving forward, then the day will come when the two sides can reach a long-term deal that keeps No. 5 in pewter for the foreseeable future. But if they feel the grass is greener elsewhere, then they had better make that decision soon because time is not on their side.
Dominik is entering his fifth season as GM and has yet to see a playoff berth during his tenure. How much longer can he keep up that kind of success rate?
The same could arguably be said about Schiano, who despite an influx of free agency dollars and the recent signing of safety Dashon Goldson this spring, has struggled to fix a lot of what has ailed the Bucs for several seasons, notably on the defensive side of the ball.
How many more late-game collapses and wasted seasons can he withstand?
Better yet, how many can the fans?
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