MIAMI GARDENS — Well, what do you know, he was god-awful. And here we were set to give Fran Tarkenton a glass of warm milk and put him in mothballs. Wake up, everybody, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman looked brutal. It was just one night, but was it really one Freeman needed?
That fumble, untouched, Josh ... you’re kidding, right? As if flesh-eating bacteria wasn’t enough bad Bucs news. This is how 5 responds to all the criticism he says he is paying no attention to at all? Former teammate Ronde Barber saying Freeman can’t carry the Bucs on his back because he is “prone to mistakes.” Hall of Fame quarterback, businessman, entertainer and nut case Tarkenton and his seemingly god-awful “god-awful” crack. Everyone comes alive when the subject is 5. And this was his answer? This was his tuneup performance? Did we mention rookie Mike Glennon threw the winning touchdown pass Saturday night? Yowza. Freeman came to the only true preseason test run Saturday, a man and an offense in need of momentum. They found none. The Bucs gained only 37 yards in their first 20 snaps. Freeman, who’d been in on only 21 plays through the first two preseason games, looked completely listless at times. Where was the energy? Freeman completed just six of 16 passes for 59 yards. The Bucs had 98 yards of offense with him, deep into the third quarter. And there was that fumble, when he was dropping back ... and he went all buttery and lost the ball. It led to a Miami touchdown. No matter that the ball was a little slick. “It was no excuse,” he said. Given the week that was, this was the last thing 5 needed. Greg Schiano assessed his out-of-sync first-team offense en masse, but he was specifically asked about Freeman heading into the season. “I’m confident, but being confident and doing it are two different things,” Schiano said. “We need to do it ...” Look, there were several dropped Freeman balls ... calling Vincent Jackson, calling Vincent Jackson ... and the offensive line was a sieve; Freeman was sacked five times. But some of those sacks were on him, looking and looking. And there were overthrows. And a slew of led drives that led to nothing. Freeman scoring drives, courtesy of Miami turnovers, traveled 23 and 21 yards. Really? Freeman won’t play Thursday, so he’ll head ice cold into the real games. And that’s really no place to be in a season that has a lot riding on it — for the Bucs and for their quarterback, who is searching for his first playoff season and his next contract. There will be more noise. How could there not be now? Remember, it’s preseason. The Patriots lost 40-9 to the Lions the other night. “Preseason, it’s hard to get a bead on it, because it’s not quite the level of game playing, not quite the level of preparation,” Freeman said. “... But, you know, a few years ago, I sat out the majority of the preseason and didn’t get things going.” It’s true. Remember the 2010 preseason, when Freeman didn’t play much because of a broken thumb. Then he went out in the real games and ... threw 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He was a sensation. He was like that at one point last season, too. Remember when? Well, remember this: The Bucs have no chance if he’s the guy who was out there Saturday.