How Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lose Josh Freeman?

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How Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lose Josh Freeman?
Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Josh Freeman era ends today for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As ESPN.com reported, the signal-caller was released by the team on Thursday. His locker will sit empty and the roster will list only two quarterbacks.

One weight lifts off the back of the front office while another is stacked on Greg Schiano and his team.

It seems like an eternity ago that quarterback Josh Freeman was considered one of the brightest young stars in the NFL. After leading his team to a 10-6 record in 2010, Freeman looked every bit the part of a franchise quarterback.

That promise was not fulfilled.

The 2011 season is better left forgotten. Freeman's 2012 campaign will be remembered less for breaking the Bucs' passing records and more for the meltdown that lead to a 7-9 record. His three games in 2013 earned him a spot on the bench.

How much blame Freeman deserves for the team's misfortunes remains a point of debate.

As a quarterback, Freeman certainly had his faults. In 60 games as the Bucs' QB, Freeman turned the ball over 79 times. SI.com's Doug Farrar cited Freeman's poor mechanics as key factor to his streaky performance.

Given how Freeman's tenure with the Bucs ended, it may be easy to forget that Freeman was one of the best QBs the Buccaneers ever had.

He holds the Bucs' single-season record for touchdowns and yardage and the team record for passing touchdowns with 80. He is also the only Bucs QB to pass for 4000 yards in a season.

It is almost a certainty that Freeman will be picked up by another NFL team. He is only 25 years old and that cannon he calls an arm should entice more than a few suitors. It will also help that the Buccaneers appear to be in utter disarray and did as much to inhibit Freeman's career as help it.

In his tenure as Bucs QB, Freeman has never had a defense on which he could rely to make the key stops. The Bucs spent precious draft picks and free-agent cash rebuilding the Bucs defense from 2009 to 2011, all while expecting Freeman to pick up the slack on offense with only a few weapons at his disposal.

Since becoming head coach in 2012, Greg Schiano sent mixed messages about his support for Freeman. 

While the media fueled much of the speculation regarding their relationship, any rapport Schiano and Freeman might have had deteriorated rapidly after the season began.

Aside from the rumors of a personality clash between Schiano and Freeman, the offensive scheme Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan installed did Freeman no favors. The run-and-shoot, iso route scheme relied almost entirely on deep balls from Freeman.

The short-range passes rookie QB Mike Glennon was throwing against the Arizona Cardinals were not available to Freeman while he was under center.

Coaching Freeman never seemed like much of a priority for Schiano's regime. Quarterbacks coach John McNulty went so far as to tell Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com that fixing Freeman's mechanics would not help him.

The bright side for Freeman is that he has the opportunity to play for a team where he has a chance to succeed. He's shown the ability to be a passer who can complete 60 percent of his throws and clearly has a nice deep ball.

Offensive coordinators should be chomping at the bit to put him in a more modern, balanced offense that isn't too conservative (like Greg Olson's) or archaic (like Mike Sullivan's).

It would be unfair and irresponsible to say that Schiano actively sabotaged Freeman. No one has any definitive proof that Schiano designed Freeman's downfall.

However, it would be fair to say that Freeman was set up for failure.

That is an issue the Glazers will have to address as Freeman's impact on the Buccaneers fades and their problems land squarely on the shoulders of Schiano.

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