Philadelphia, PA – Josh Freeman not only looks the part, he was made for the part.
If you went to a laboratory and asked a few scientists to genetically engineer a quarterback for today's NFL, they might come back with the 6-foot-6, 248- pound Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who happens to have a rifle dangling from his right arm and the kind of speed which can lap all but the fastest linebackers in football.
And once upon a time Freeman, the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was living up to his promise as the kind of dual-threat quarterback taking the league by storm these days.
Long before there was Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson or even Cam Newton, Freeman was turning things around in Central Florida, lifting the Bucs to an impressive 10-6 mark in his first full year as a starter back in 2010.
Since then, though, the train began to slow and when the "my way or the highway" Greg Schiano showed up, things have been threatening to derail.
Freeman has regressed badly since his inaugural twirl around the dance floor, compiling an 11-21 mark as a starter and a touchdown-to-interception ratio that has dipped from an impressive 4.17 down to a pedestrian 1.1.
Perhaps more importantly his value as a leader, something intrinsic to the position he plays, is gone, dismissed by his own teammates when they picked team captains for 2013 and decided Freeman -- despite holding the position for the previous three seasons -- wasn't worthy of the designation,
"Everybody wants to make it out like it's a demotion," Freeman said on his radio show. "I don't look at it like that. They don't look at it like that. Essentially, the conversations, the day-to-day actions are the same."
The truth is it's rare to have a QB who has had any kind of success and say he's not one of the captains of your club -- so much so that some players accused the hardline Schiano of rigging the results to prevent Freeman from holding onto the position.
"I know there's a story out there," an agitated Schiano told The Tampa Bay Times when talking about the captaincy mess. "It's 100 percent false. If there was such a thing as 102 percent, this would be it."
Schiano, not much of a leader himself these days, then threw his own signal caller under the bus by confirming Freeman did not show up on time for the annual team photo and admitted he's been late for other events.
"The position of quarterback is a position of leadership," Schiano countered. "And obviously missing the team photo's a big deal. It's something I feel badly about, and it's honestly upsetting."
The real problem here is Schiano's reputation or lack thereof with his own players.
It may or may not be fair but he's "Joe College" in a roomful of professionals, the former Rutgers coach who told his players to dive at the opposition in a victory formation.
Former Tampa Bay quarterback Shaun King addressed the issue on NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk:
"It speaks to a deeper issue," King said. "There's a lot of disarray in Tampa. One of the points being that some of the players felt like there was an unfair counting of the captain vote, feeling like Josh Freeman should have remained a captain. Greg Schiano is a micro-manager, and it's starting to wear thin with some of their veteran players."
Freeman is one of those veterans, the former "franchise" who seems to be artfully willing himself out of town with insolent behavior.
"When it comes to college coaches making the transition to the pros, it's very difficult," King said. "When the college coach never won anything of significance in college (it's more difficult). (When) Greg Schiano was hired, he was 20 games under .500 in the Big East at Rutgers. Those are real numbers, so I don't think those guys are currently buying into that."
To be fair, while Schiano did finish his career with the Scarlet Knights 20 games under .500 in conference play (28-48), he also turned around what was a moribund program and made it a consistent Bowl presence. In Schiano's final six years at Rutgers he finished 49-27 overall and was at .500 in conference affairs.
On the flip side let's be honest, at no point during Schiano's tenure at Rutgers was the program even within earshot of the Alabamas of the world and a guy like Al Golden, who turned around Temple, perhaps a more Herculean task than Schiano's, wasn't exactly getting his door knocked down to become an NFL coach.
"I talked to guys on the Buccaneers this summer (and I asked), 'What's up with the quarterback kneel-down thing, where you have to dive at the legs?'" former NFL player and current analyst Ross Tucker said on NBCSN. "They just shook their head. When you ask NFL players to do things that they know is bogus, that they know is bush league, that's not a good thing."
Schiano arrived in Tampa with a lightweight reputation and he's already used up any political capital he might have had with his players, the fans and the local media.
We are one week into the 2013 season and there's already been a players only team meeting in Tampa, a 13-penalty performance against the lowly New York Jets and a run-in with a starting QB in the last year of his rookie contract who doesn't seem to care.
It can only get worse from here.