A huge problem at the quarterback position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got even worse yesterday with the announcement that head coach Greg Schiano is benching starter Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. It’s obvious that Schiano favors Glennon over Freeman, but it’s too early in the season to make this switch, and not only is it unfair to put both quarterbacks in this situation, it’s also a risky move by Schiano.
It was obvious when Glennon was drafted that Schiano views him as the long-term solution at quarterback over Freeman, but that doesn’t mean Glennon is ready to take over the starting job three weeks into his rookie season. Glennon was given a fair chance to compete for the starting job in the preseason and didn’t perform anywhere close to the level necessary to take the job away from Freeman, and it’s unlikely that he’s been able to significantly close the gap between the two over the past month, despite Freeman’s terrible play. Pushing Glennon into the starting role before he’s ready isn’t going to cure Tampa Bay’s offensive woes; it’s only going to handicap their offense because of inexperience at the most important position, and it may not be what’s best for Glennon’s long-term development.
As atrocious as Freeman has been early in the season, he’s still the Bucs’ best choice at quarterback right now. It’s important to keep in mind that Tampa Bay has played three quality defenses the first three weeks of the season. The Bucs scored more points (17) against the Jets on the road than the Patriots scored (14) against the Jets in New England. The Bucs were actually in position to beat the Jets before poor late-game defense and penalties gave the game away. A two-point loss to New Orleans is also nothing to be ashamed of considering how impressive the Saints have been this season, especially on defense.
Considering the quality of defenses Freeman has gone up against, three games is not enough to determine that a change needs to be made. A home game this week against Arizona, who is easily the worst defensive team Tampa Bay will have faced in the month of September, would have been a great opportunity for Freeman to settle in and start playing better. He has the talent and the weapons around him to succeed; all that’s missing is a little confidence, and since Schiano has done nothing to show support for his quarterback, a game against Arizona’s defense could be just what Freeman needs.
Schiano has to realize that by benching Freeman now, there’s no going back to him later in the season if things don’t work out with Glennon. Even if he’s not traded, Freeman will be mentally checked out, which means if Glennon struggles, the Bucs are stuck with him, and if he gets injured, they’ll have to go to a third quarterback. The Bucs are in a deep hole at 0-3, and there’s no way that a quarterback that showed so little preparedness in the preseason is going to be able to get them out of that hole and into contention for a playoff spot, whereas there’s a chance Freeman could with a little more time to get on track, and perhaps a boost of confidence from his head coach, who’s been against him the entire season.
If nothing else, the Bucs need to wait another week before making the switch. It would allow Freeman one more chance, which he deserves, and if nothing else, it would give Glennon two full weeks of practice to get ready for his first career start. If the Bucs were to start 0-4, their season would be all but over regardless of who plays quarterback. But after three losses to quality defenses, with two of those losses by a combined three points, it’s too early to give up on Freeman and hand the offense over to a rookie. Making a chance at quarterback right now is a bad decision by Schiano; it’s not in the best interest of the Bucs’ present or future, and it’s a decision that could cost Schiano his job if the change at quarterback doesn’t work out.