The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a controversy brewing at the quarterback position, as the apparent feud between head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman has reached the point of trade requests, missed team photos and rigged captaincy votes—per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, respectively.
On Sunday, Freeman had an opportunity to put all of the drama in the past and silence the critics with a strong performance against the division rival New Orleans Saints.
But rather than putting out the quickly growing fire of controversy, he added more fuel to it.
Freeman was a lowly 9-of-22 passing for 125 yards and one touchdown pass. He also turned the ball over twice, with an interception and a fumble lost on a sack.
And with the Buccaneers falling just short of a victory, held back by an offense that scored only seven points, Freeman will certainly be under the microscope this week.
Allow me to be the first to break down Freeman's performance against New Orleans. Let's start with his accuracy.
Josh Freeman has never been a very accurate passer.
Go all the way back to his draft profile at NFL.com, before he was selected in the first round by the Buccaneers. You'll find under "Negatives" that Freeman has "Inconsistent accuracy from the pocket and throwing on the run."
And while Freeman might be only 25, he's a veteran in his fifth season in the NFL. Those accuracy issues should have been resolved by now.
They definitely have not been resolved at all.
Freeman brutally missed on multiple throws during Sunday's game, with one key incompletion coming on second down late in the game as the Buccaneers were trying to run out the clock. He threw a ball to a wide-open Kevin Ogletree, and it bounced before even reaching the feet of the receiver.
He did show flashes of brilliance in this area, but flashes just aren't good enough. Freeman did deliver a strike over the middle to Vincent Jackson early in the game, prompting the well-known Twitter NFL expert Joe Bussell to proclaim:
Wow. That was a throw and a half by Freeman.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) September 15, 2013
In other words, there were positive moments for the Buccaneers signal-caller.
However, Freeman simply did not deliver accurate, catchable passes consistently enough to earn good marks in this area.
Another category, another inconsistent performance from Freeman.
Freeman does not handle pressure very well, and he showed that again Sunday against the Saints.
The two turnovers Freeman gave to the Saints were the result of pressure and showed the two ways the Tampa Bay signal-caller is most affected by opposing pass-rushers.
The fumble Freeman lost was the result of holding on to the ball too long. As I wrote for The Pewter Plank earlier in the summer, this is one area Freeman had to improve in coming into 2013. He was statistically better when he got rid of the ball quickly.
Freeman simply did not pull the trigger to hit his receivers, and his tackle, Donald Penn, could not protect him forever, surrendering a sack that dislodged the football. John Lynch of Fox NFL mentioned on the broadcast that quarterbacks must have an "internal clock" that alerts them to pressure coming from their blind side.
The other turnover by the Tampa Bay quarterback was the result of making a late, hurried throw with bad mechanics.
Josh Freeman was under pressure and forced out of the pocket, and he threw off his back foot to a well-covered Vincent Jackson. Jackson was being shadowed by a safety, who read Freeman's eyes and jumped in front to snag the interception.
There were moments where Freeman showed he's capable of throwing under pressure, but the mistakes absolutely sabotaged any positive steps he took in this game.
Freeman ended the game with a QB rating of 56.1. That's a regression after his already disappointing Week 1 performance against the New York Jets.
That almost tells the whole story.
To Freeman's credit, there were multiple dropped passes and one massive throw called back for an illegal formation penalty.
Still, Freeman was inaccurate and unable to create plays to earn big chunks of yards. His completion percentage resembled an NBA three-point specialist's shooting percentage more than a legitimate NFL quarterback's passing marks. For Ray Allen, 41 percent is fine. It's not fine for Josh Freeman.
According to Pewter Report's Twitter account, this might have been the end of the road for Freeman.
Schiano said Freeman should be the starter for N.E. But will review the tape.— Pewter Report (@PewterReport) September 16, 2013
This should come as no surprise. Freeman was playing a weaker defense than he saw in Week 1, and he showed the same struggles and inconsistencies. He was put in situations to succeed this week, and nothing came of it.
I still believe Freeman could be utilized better by his team, but he's also responsible for making plays and generating offense. On Sunday against the Saints, he was simply unable to give the defense what it needed to pull off an upset against a division rival.
It will be very interesting to see where Freeman goes from here. It's clear that there is a potential trade in the works to get rid of the Kansas State product, as pointed out by Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox.
Sunday's performance may have hurt Freeman's trade value but increased the chances he'd be shipped out of town. Greg Schiano doesn't seem ready to stick with Freeman in such a pivotal season for the second-year head coach.
And at this point, it's tough to blame him for not putting his trust—and the fate of his job—in the hands of the inconsistent Josh Freeman.