What Josh Freeman's Brief Free Agency Says About Tampa Bay Coach Greg Schiano

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Greg Schiano
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Greg SchianoWinslow Townson/Getty Images

Josh Freeman remained a free agent for less than a week. Yesterday the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback agreed to a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, reportedly worth $3 million.

Despite Bucs Coach Greg Schiano's attempts to torpedo Freeman's career, the former Buccaneers quarterback had more than a couple of suitors vying for his services. According to several reports, at least ten NFL teams expressed interest in Freeman.

This means the fifth-year quarterback has a solid enough reputation around the league to offset the bad publicity and poor play associated with his final season with the Bucs.

It could also mean that Schiano's reputation is so bad that front office folks disregarded his characterization of Freeman.

Perhaps, being exiled to Schiano's dog house is like being booted from American Idol early. It probably bodes well for your career. 

Make no mistake, Freeman's performance this season was horrible. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes. His quarterback rating of 59.3 was among the worst in the NFL.  

However, it's hard to ignore that his play got progressively worse under Schiano's rein. Freeman threw for more than 4,000 yards last year. He finished the season with a quarterback rating of 81.6. In 2010 he went to the Pro Bowl. 

Benching Freeman was not an issue. It's how Schiano handled the situation. He appeared to be trying to humiliate the man.

Josh Freeman in his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman in his final season with the Tampa Bay BuccaneersMark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

When Schiano decided to bench Freeman, he didn't just say we're going to try something different. He declared rookie quarterback Mike Glennon "our starting quarterback from this point forward." No competition. No let's see how things play out. Glennon, the unproven rookie was anointed "our quarterback. That's the plan, and that's how we're going." 

In other words, Schiano was saying Glennon is my guy and good riddance Josh Freeman. 

After being benched, information about Freeman's participation in the league's substance abuse program was leaked to the press. All of a sudden a guy who had been voted team captain three consecutive years was being painted as a screw up with a drug problem. 

We still have no proof as to who leaked that information. We may never know. What we do know is that reports of a mutiny in Tampa surfaced before the season started. Accusations that Schiano fixed the vote for team captain signaled serious problems.  

The fact that there were even rumors that Schiano fixed the vote speaks volumes about the level of distrust in the Buccaneers locker room. 

Young quarterbacks struggle. They make mistakes. How those mistakes are handled can have a lasting impact on a player. Schiano's lack of flexibility may have hindered Freeman's growth.  

Look around the NFL. How many 6'6", 240-pound, Pro Bowl appearance quarterbacks do you see? When you get one, you try to work with him, not against him.

It's easy to romanticize the NFL's youth movement when it comes to quarterbacks. However, the "insta-legend" is pure myth.

Good coaches make good quarterbacks great quarterbacks. That equation is often missing in the conversation about whether a young quarterback is a beast or bust.

Dan Marino, one of the first rookie sensations, joined a team that had just gone to the Super Bowl. His coach? Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history. The previous year the Dolphins were a ball-control defense focused team. When Shula saw the weapons and Marino's raw talent, he adapted. 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walked into a similar situation. He had the good fortune of joining a winning organization with a good coach, Bill Cowher. The great Peyton Manning was wasting away on a mediocre team until Tony Dungy arrived. 

Not only does Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck have Chuck Pagano as coach, he has his college offensive coordinator and one of his favorite college receivers on the team. Luck said the Colts' offense is 75 percent of what he ran at Stanford.

When you get lucky enough to get a quarterback as talented as Freeman, with his size and that arm, you do what you can to make him comfortable. You certainly don't run him out of town on trumped up charges. 

Of course Schiano didn't throw any interceptions or miss receivers. His miscues happened on the sideline and in team meetings. Instead of nurturing his talented young quarterback, Schiano decided to demonize him. He wanted people to believe that Freeman was lazy, immature and a cancer in the locker room. 

Former coaches went on the record to endorse Freeman's work ethic, abilities and character. That type of public support sends the message: don't believe what you hear coming out of Tampa. 

The Vikings didn't buy it. At least nine other teams didn't buy it. 

Meanwhile there are questions about Schiano's character. He's been portrayed as an overbearing control freak. He rid himself of what he perceived as the problem in Tampa. But Schiano is left with a stain on his own reputation.