After retooling their defense in the offseason with the acquisition of cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were labeled a dark-horse playoff contender by some pundits.
Now, however, the 0-3 Buccaneers are a sinking ship, and head coach Greg Schiano has thrown his starting quarterback overboard in an attempt to reverse the team's lagging fortunes.
ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to break the news that Schiano had made the switch, benching Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon:
Bucs have made the move: Benching Josh Freeman for Mike Glennon, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 25, 2013
The move came only days after Schiano had said that there wasn't a time during Tampa's 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots last week where he considered giving Freeman the hook, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
Apparently, Schiano reconsidered after looking at film.
It's not hard to see why.
Stats courtesy of NFL.com
Since his excellent 2010 season, Freeman's numbers tailed off considerably. His accuracy was down. His turnovers were up.
Freeman appeared to rebound last year, only to tail off badly later in the season. That set the stage for a make-or-break 2013 season for Freeman. In a contract year, no less.
It would certainly appear that Schiano has seen all he needed to, and Peter King of Sports Illustrated revealed a stat that would appear to lend credence to Schiano's decision:
Freeman Benching No Surprise Dept.: Completion rates since start of 2012: Brandon Weeden .570, Blaine Gabbert, .569, Josh Freeman .535.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 25, 2013
So did NFL.com's Jeff Darlington:
For as efficient as Josh Freeman might have been in 2010 (25 TDs, 6 INTs), no quarterback has thrown more INTs than him (42) since 2011.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 25, 2013
However, the move wasn't met with approval from all circles:
Josh Freeman is and always will be twice the QB that Mike Glennon is and a much better QB than Greg Schiano is an NFL head coach.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) September 25, 2013
With that said, though, it's usually a good idea to do the exact opposite of what Skip Bayless says.
At least Schiano had better hope so. With the Buccaneers' season circling the drain, and reports of players bristling at Schiano's hard-nosed coaching style, all it may take to cost Schiano his job is for the switch at quarterback to blow up in his face.
Enter Glennon, who could either be Schiano's savior or the last nail in his coffin.
Which it will be is anyone's guess.
On one hand, Glennon is a big, strong-armed quarterback, the so-called prototypical "pocket passer."
He also showed the ability to be productive at North Carolina State, topping 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes last year despite a lack of elite talent around him.
At North Carolina State
As Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports reported leading up to the 2013 NFL draft, Glennon had his supporters, among them Greg Cosell of NFL Films:
"I would argue that, in my opinion, Glennon could (go) late in the first round and I wouldn't have a problem with that at all," Cosell said during NFL Network's Path to the Draft (via NFL.com). "As I talked about his attributes, I think he has probably -- of the quarterbacks in this class -- more of the attributes that you look for than maybe any other quarterback in this class. …
"I think the thing that stands out with him, first of all, his functional mobility for a big man is far better than people might give him credit for," Cosell continued. "You see him move out of the pocket and make throws. He can do that. The thing I really like about him is his willingness to pull the trigger. You've got to do that in the NFL."
Of course, Glennon also had plenty of detractors, including Grantland's Bill Barnwell:
Mike Glennon is a good litmus test of whether you're scouting football players or people who look like football players.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) April 27, 2013
Yes, Glennon has the size and arm scouts look for. So did Blaine Gabbert.
Glennon is also prone to fits of inconsistency. For every "wow" throw there's an airmailed one that elicits a groan.
As Will Brinson of CBS Sports pointed out, Glennon also has a tendency to hold the ball too long, a big no-no in the NFL:
Mike Glennon needs to realize when his internal sundial tells him he's been in the pocket too long.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 31, 2012
As is the elongated delivery that Bleacher Report's Matt Miller saw at the Senior Bowl:
I made a sandwich in the amount of time it took Mike Glennon to rotate his hips and finish throws this week. SLOW delivery— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 26, 2013
Granted, most of these are issues that can likely be "fixed," and Schiano apparently sees enough potential in Glennon to feel he's worth the bumps in the road that will come with starting him.
Given how Freeman has played, that's understandable.
Did Greg Schiano make the right move benching Josh Freeman for Mike Glennon?
The thing is, Schiano isn't exactly standing on the thickest of ice, and it's folly to believe that Glennon is going to enter the huddle and suddenly turn Tampa Bay's fortunes around.
By inserting Glennon, Schiano is essentially sacrificing some short-term success for the long-term betterment of the ballclub. That assumes, of course, that Glennon really is capable of developing into a quality NFL starter.
There's plenty of dissension regarding that question. However, the bigger question may not be whether Mike Glennon can grow into a role as a solid NFL signal-caller.
The question is: With the Buccaneers on a collision course with the NFC South basement, will Schiano be around to see it if it does happen?