Tue. May 28th, 2024

The pirate ship is sinking at an alarming rate in Tampa Bay, Fla. Last Sunday afternoon’s 31-20 gruesome debacle against the Philadelphia Eagles transformed Raymond James Stadium into an impact site as if a nuclear missile eradicated the ghostly spectrum. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seen one catastrophic disaster after another. There has not been any sign of good news yet against optimism since the beginning of the NFL season as locker room drama, a contagious MRSA outbreak, poor coaching and play calling, atrocious performances on both sides of the ball, and local television blackouts have left a gloomy unpleasant overcast directly above “The New Sombrero.”
The lowly Buccaneers sit at 0-5 showing little to no signs of improvement, however, a clear sign of a franchise overhaul lingers in the distance and the Tampa Bay front office may consider making some wholesome modifications towards the end of the season, quite possibly in the next two weeks.
It is safe to say that no one saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers transition into a dysfunctional club heading into the 2013 offseason. In fact, according to many NFL analysts, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were widely regarded as major players in free agent market this year. The Buccaneers graciously opened their checkbook and acquired a number of paramount players through trades and free agency. Amongst their key free agent signings were free safety, Dashon Goldson, who played spectacularly for the Super Bowl-contending San Francisco 49ers and Pro-Bowl cornerback, Darrelle Revis, who was dealt by the New York Jets. The additions of Revis and Goldson led to speculation that the Bucs were primed to compete for the divisional crown in the NFC South.
A year ago, they acquired wide receiver Vincent Jackson, drafted premier running back, Doug Martin, signed guard, Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright in the offseason. After a 7-9 improvement and retooling of its secondary, the Buccaneers were projected to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
This sounds very much like the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles who were famously-dubbed as the “Dream Team” after Andy Reid and Howie Roseman engaged in a noisy spending-spree. In the 2011 offseason, the Eagles signed several renowned playmakers such as Nnamdi Asoumgha, Dominque-Rogers Cromartie, Vince Young, and Evan Mathis raising public conjecture and expectation that the team was capable of winning the Super Bowl. The Eagles missed their mark. The birds finished 8-8 narrowly missing the playoffs after a dismal 1-4 start.
Despite their bountiful offseason, the Buccaneers are experiencing collapse of an even greater magnitude. Unlike the 2011 Eagles, the Buccaneers have multiple issues on and off the field. What was supposed to be a potential playoff contender this season, mutated into a losing bottom-dweller overnight, and from the way things appear, finishing below .500 for the third straight season could detrimentally set the Buccaneers back another 3-5 years.
The overall demise of the Buccaneers’ 2013 season falls solely on the shoulders of second-year head coach, Greg Schiano, a man who immediately lost respect of his team from the moment Lawrence Tynes launched the opening kick. Schiano has worn out his welcome in Tampa Bay simply by tearing the very fabric of the Buccaneers starting with quarterback, Josh Freeman. Freeman and Schiano have butted heads for months on end. Despite a rebound year, Schiano was not convinced Freeman was the future of the Tampa Bay franchise. He later waffled the quarterback as his starter after compiling a mediocre 7-9 record in 2012 and instead of challenging him, Schiano deliberately took his plea to the Glazer brothers persuading the owners to select Mike Glennon in the 2013 NFL Draft. Schiano never even sanctioned an official competition between the two quarterbacks sending mixed signals to Freeman.
When questioned by the media about the status of the Buccaneers’ quarterback position during the preseason, he claimed Freeman was his man, extending the boundaries of complimenting the former Kansas State gunslinger; however, the masses could easily read between the lines. At the end of the day, Freeman was never redeemable in the eyes of Schiano. Schiano and Freeman had more difficulties than Ralph and Alice Kramden from “The Honeymooners.” In retrospect, Schiano completely mishandled his relationship with Freeman over the past eight months. Tensions even arose when Schiano’s ambivalence towards Freeman sparked rumors of a possible trade to Kansas City, before the Chiefs obtained Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.
After whispers of trading, Freeman vanished out of thin air, Freeman was stripped of his captaincy by his fellow teammates for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2009. According to the Tampa Bay press, several of Freeman’s teammates anonymously suggested Schiano had rigged the poll preventing Freeman from firmly grasping the reins of the squad.
Despite Schiano’s gruff nature, Freeman is no angel himself. In a contract year, Freeman did not further help his cause after missing mandatory meetings and the team’s annual photo due to oversleeping. While Schiano stirred the pot from the very beginning, Freeman’s passive-aggressive attitude ultimately sealed his fate. Freeman was benched in favor of an incumbent rookie Mike Glennon, thus ending his career in Tampa Bay. Schiano ruled out the possibility of starting the quarterback citing the organization’s decision to move further in a new direction. After the Buccaneers fell to the Arizona Cardinals in a 13-10 loss with Glennon under center, Freeman was subsequently released on Oct. 3, 2013.
Prior to his aforementioned release, sources revealed Freeman voluntarily admitted himself to the NFL’s substance abuse program in which the quarterback was a subject to frequent drug screenings. It later surfaced that Freeman was diagnosed with ADHD and took Ritalin instead of his medically-prescribed Adderall. Like every organization, team physicians are under the Hippocrat
ic Oath which dictates confidentiality between the medical specialists, the team staff and the player. These bylaws protect the health of the players unless they deal with issues on the field.
When news of Freeman’s entrance into the league’s substance abuse program leaked, the Buccaneers broke the barriers of confidentiality. The quarterback was publicly humiliated and his exodus resulted in a legal investigation involving the authorities as well as the NFL Players Association. Schiano has faced heavy scrutiny by the press even going as far as accusing the head coach of divulging the medical files of Freeman. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Schiano was charged with violating the Hippocratic Oath endangering Tampa Bay’s medical staff.
If Schiano is indeed found guilty on charges affirmed by the NFLPA probe, not only will he be terminated but Buccaneer’s therapeutic cadre could be deprived of their license to treat players. Freeman, who was the 17th pick drafted out of the first round in 2009, has seen quite a wobbly career. During his tenure with the Buccaneers, Freeman was 23-33 as a starter, passing for over 13,534 yards and throwing an average of 80 touchdown passes and 66 interceptions. In his past five rigorous starts, Freeman threw an ugly statistical rate of 4 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. That is unacceptable for a five-year veteran quarterback coming off a rebound year but looking at the bigger picture – Freeman was not in a supportive environment in which he was capable of thriving.
In Tampa Bay’s extensive history, Freeman has been the most accurate passing quarterback the franchise has ever seen. He led the league in passing in his sophomore season racking up impressive numbers, throwing 25 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2010 at the ripe age of 22. Freeman’s recent blunders are not entirely a reflection of himself but rather a reflection of the impaired organization he was formerly a part of in his five-year career.
Freeman saw two very different football minds seize the Buccaneers ever-changing 53-man roster. Raheem Morris, who was a defensive coordinator under former Buccaneers luminary, Jon Gruden, was Freeman’s very first teacher, patiently educating the young quarterback about the overall playing style and environment of professional football. Morris and Freeman were mildly successful in their first two seasons progressing from a 3-13 to a 10-6 record. Unfortunately, Morris’ days were severely numbered when the Buccaneers took a step back after posting a repugnant 4-12 record. The Glazer brothers ultimately dismissed Morris after perceiving his tranquil and hushed nature as major defect to the growth of the team. The enlistment of Schiano was a complete 360 for the Buccaneers.
The transition from a laid-back tactician in Morris to an overly-hostile totalitarian like Schiano only capsized the Buccaneers. The Glazers’ failure to realize their weakness of the general managerial position only widens the sphere to their incompetency. The Freeman incident was not the first time Schiano’s team philosophy and coaching style has come under fire.
In a lopsided defeat against the New York Giants last season, Schiano commanded his defense to pressure quarterback Eli Manning by jumping over the line after the offense took a knee. Schiano claimed the play was a “sneak defense” in an attempt to pry the ball loose. NFL analysts and scholars flogged Schiano for his dirty illegal maneuvers especially since the Giants were in victory formation after the two-minute warning. Not only is the following a perfect example of poor sportsmanship, but disgustingly it is the biggest sign of disrespect; it is sore loser-ship at its finest, and if Schiano’s players were to have injured a member of the Giants offensive line, the team would have faced unsparing penalties from the league. It is almost guaranteed Schiano will be quickly discharged unless he miraculously levies the Buccaneers out of their 0-5 aperture, but the damage is already done.
The former Rutgers authoritarian needs to understand that the NFL is no country for dumb men. The ramifications for medically-leaked information simply meander beyond termination and are generally grounds for legal apprehension. Schiano’s outlook on the game serves as a footnote for young coordinators and coaches that not every football expert is qualified for the NFL. Schiano may have been the most winningest head coach at Rutgers University but he’s naturally a stooge in a grown man’s game and his ego and shallow reputation allowed his crew of scallywags to contemplate on abandon ship.
Drew Mattioli is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RM814408@wcupa.edu. 

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