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Josh Freeman’s Benching not a Moment too soon

Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman was given the hook this past week by head coach Greg Schiano.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman

Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) sets to throw during the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman was given the hook this past week by head coach Greg Schiano. The two have never really gotten along and it finally culminated in the benching of Freeman, who will be replaced by unproven rookie Mike Glennon.

There’s a pocket of football fans who think Josh Freeman got a raw deal from Schiano when he was abruptly benched this week. The main argument being that Freeman has shown too much in his years in Tampa Bay to give up on him after only three games into the 2013 season.

The fact is Freeman never exuded a great deal of consistency over his career. While he displayed some remarkable ability at times, Freeman has been plagued by poor decision-making during his tenure as the starter.

The quarterback was given the keys to the car rather quickly. Drafted in the first-round in 2009, he played in ten games. While displaying some promise, he threw for ten touchdowns to 18 interceptions and completed just more than half of his passes. Bookmark those stats, if you will.

2010 was his breakout season and Freeman displayed the look of a bona fide star. In a full season, he threw for a somewhat modest 3,451 yards, but the impressive thing was that his touchdown to interception ratio went through the roof. While tossing 25 touchdowns, the second-year quarterback had only six picks and it looked like he had this whole NFL thing figured out.

He regressed over the next two seasons from that remarkable year, though. In 2011 and 2012, while averaging a bit more yardage, that aforementioned touchdown/interception ratio was again terrible. His 43 touchdowns to 39 interceptions was below average and worse yet, he was again completing (remember that bookmarked statistic), a little more than half of his passes. Just as bad were the career-high eight fumbles he had last season.

After the success he had only a few years ago, it was only fitting to give Freeman another look—especially considering Tampa Bay didn’t have any other real options. Despite the regression from 2010, Tampa Bay was wise not to give up on him and those pesky interceptions. Through three games, however, Freeman was back to that poor play.

So far, Tampa Bay is sporting an 0-3 record and the quarterback is a big reason for that. In 2013, Freeman has three interceptions to only two touchdowns and his stats indicate that he is on track for something resembling his 2009 rookie year. He’s completing a meager 45 percent of his attempts and is on pace for about 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions – eerily similar to that initial campaign. Fact is that while he’s displayed some promise in the past, the regression is such that it was time for a change.

The maddening thing for the Bucs has to be that they’ve been so close to winning. The team was blown out by the Patriots last week, 23-3, but lost their first two games to the Jets and Saints by a combined three points. If Freeman had even been serviceable, Tampa Bay could easily be 2-1 instead of 0-3.

In Glennon, Tampa Bay doesn’t know what it has. With the play of Freeman, though, it’s time to find out.

Understandably, Freeman wants to be traded. The Bucs, if they can, should accommodate. While they need a backup option in case Glennon doesn’t pan out or becomes injured (and no, Dan Orlovsky is not an option), it’s hardly worth having a disgruntled player on the roster of a team not likely to reach the playoffs. A change of scenery could help Freeman as it has so many other players and you can bet that the quarterback will get another shot.

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