TAMPA — There’s no turning back now. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have charted a new course, and there’s no veering away from it. From this moment on, it’s Mike Glennon or bust, which begs these questions:
What if it’s a bust? What then? Who takes the helm?
Coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday that Josh Freeman, recently deposed as the starting quarterback in favor of the rookie Glennon, would be the backup today against Arizona, ahead of veteran Dan Orlovsky. But by Friday, Schiano would no longer commit to that.
No one should be surprised.
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been bouncing around the NFL for 17 years now, working mostly as an offensive coordinator. He’s seen moves like this before, even been involved in a few.
Freeman is through as a Buccaneer, he said.
“At this point in time, you’re moving on, there’s no moving back,’’ Arians said. “That’s part of the business of coaching and general managing. When they drafted Mike Glennon, they thought they were moving on. Now they’ve made that decision.’’
Another decision still looms: What to do with Freeman. The answer seems obvious. The trade deadline is Oct. 29. It’s hard to imagine Freeman will be a Buccaneer when it passes, which brings us back to our original questions.
What if Glennon goes bust? What then? Who takes the helm?
In the short term, the Bucs probably stick with the kid no matter what. After all, there’s no turning back now. For the rest of this season, at least, the course has been set. The Bucs are all in on Glennon.
But what about next year?
If Freeman is gone and Glennon has proved to be nothing more than a lankier Freeman, the Bucs might be right back where they were five years ago when they drafted Freeman, which is in the market for a starting quarterback.
Judging by the quarterbacks projected to be in the free-agent market, that might not be a good position. Outside of Jay Cutler, Freeman, even with all of his inconsistencies, might be the best on the market.
The good news is that the 2014 crop of college quarterbacks, which should include Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, is already shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.
But that would mean starting over.
And if that’s what the Bucs are forced to do, then all bets are off, because that might mean starting over at places other than just quarterback.
The Glazer family, which owns the team, has never fired a coach after less than three years, so history suggests Schiano will be back next year. Like Freeman, though, Schiano has lost eight of his past nine games. And as Schiano himself pointed out, the Bucs’ woes are not all a result of the play of the quarterback.
So, it’s reasonable to think that if Glennon goes bust, Freeman might not be the only Buccaneer who loses his job.
Lost in translation
The decision to remove Freeman as the starter came as a surprise to some, in part because the Bucs twice lost games this season in which Freeman left the field for the last time with the Bucs holding a lead he’d helped produce.
That might not become a big part of Freeman’s legacy as a Buccaneer, but losing games late in the second half that Freeman put his team in position to win happened rather often during Freeman’s tenure.
Freeman was 24-35 as the starting quarterback, but 11 of those losses came in games in which the Bucs lost leads late in the fourth quarter, all but one in the final two minutes.
Putting it all in perspective
The life of a professional football player is not an easy one. The hours are long, the work is grueling and the threat of injury is high. Despite all that, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy considers himself fortunate.
“There’s a lot of other things I could be doing that aren’t as nice as this,’’ McCoy said. “It really is a privilege and a gift to be able to play this game. The other day, we were sitting in the lunch room and I was thinking, ‘We’re eating food that somebody else cooked for us, and then you sit down, watch film, and go home.’
“Sure, we can complain, but it’s really a privilege, and I think until it’s taken from you, you don’t realize how much of a privilege it is.”