Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were, essentially, on top of the world.
With a 10-6 record, a franchise quarterback and a solid outlook for the future, the "young Bucs" were supposed to be the darlings of the 2011 NFL.
This offseason, things changed in Tampa.
The blame has to center on wonder-child quarterback Josh Freeman. He's been awful this season, but no one seems to have noticed.
The Buccaneers have fallen into relative obscurity this year—LeGarrette Blount's awesome run against the Packers was Tampa Bay's first real publicity this year.
What happened to the Bucs?
The team was supposed to be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks, Aqib Talib's arrest was an interest-piquing story and everyone's playoff predictions for 2011 included the Buccaneers "breaking through" and making the playoffs.
There's no scientific answer as to why the public lost interest in Tampa Bay, but the team has regressed to 4-6 this season, and it's doubtful they'll capture a win on the road this week against a tough Tennessee team.
Freeman has been ineffective, throwing 11 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and 2,516 yards for a paltry 75.0 quarterback rating. To put these stats in perspective, Tim Tebow's 78.4 quarterback rating is higher.
That's pretty bad.
It has all come crashing down this year for Tampa Bay, which has lost as many games so far as it did all of last year. Freeman's play last year, 25:6 (TD:INT) with a 95.9 quarterback rating, was drastically better and as such, the Bucs had a successful year.
For a perfect example, look at the Texans game. Freeman threw three interceptions, and his team lost 37-9.
Not only that, but the Buccaneers have been embarrassed time and time again this year, especially when they lost 48-3 to San Francisco.
Everything went wrong after then. The Buccaneers were 3-1 before that game, but since losing to the 49ers, Freeman has thrown eight touchdowns and nine interceptions—the Buccaneers, as such, have gone 1-4.
Josh Freeman needs to get it all together quickly, or else the Buccaneers will mire in mediocrity for the next 5-10 years.
Look for Freeman to pick it up—he must do so if the Buccaneers are to win any games for the rest of the year.