Published September 27, 2013
| Sports Network
Beware the vote of confidence.
As both European politicians, embattled executives and sports coaches of all sorts will be first to attest, among the last things any of them got before being asked to pack their bags was an assurance from the powers-that-be that their statuses were nothing if not secure.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman became the latest in a long line of here todays/gone tomorrows earlier this week, when Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano initially lauded and then just as quickly demoted the fifth-year passer who's been a starter since his rookie season.
The coup de QB in the aftermath of a loss to the New England Patriots, Tampa Bay's third straight in a season that had begun with playoff aspirations in a competitive NFC South Division. Instead, the Bucs are already three games behind streaking New Orleans and one apiece behindAtlanta and Carolina.
Stepping in to season rescue mode this weekend against the visiting Arizona Cardinals will be rookie Mike Glennon, whom Tampa Bay made the 73rd overall selection out of North Carolina State in April.
"Any time you work hard with somebody, it's a tough decision," Schiano said. "We feel Mike gives us the best chance to win on Sunday. We felt, at this time, Mike Glennon gives us the best chance to win. We believe this was the best thing to do for our football team."
Freeman had been the starter since Week 8 of 2009, when he took over from the winless combination of Josh Johnson (0-4 as a starter) and Byron Leftwich (0-3). He was a 38-28 winner over Green Bay in his initial start on Nov. 8 that year, and wound up winning three of nine starts to close the schedule.
He was 10-6 while starting all 16 games a year later, then went 4-11 and 7-9 in 2011 and 2012.
The 2012 season saw him establish career-highs with 27 touchdowns and 4,065 yards, while dropping his interception total from 22 to 17. His completion rate plummeted to 54.8 percent, however, and had dropped even further this season -- to 45.7 percent on 94 throws -- before Schiano pulled the plug.
He was 19-of-41 against the Patriots for 236 yards, no TDs and an interception in a 23-3 loss.
Schiano informed the two players of the decision before meeting with the entire team on Wednesday.
Freeman is in the final year of a contract and had created a stir earlier in the month after missing the team photo session on Labor Day. He was subsequently not voted a team captain.
Glennon was the third QB drafted, behind only Florida State's EJ Manuel (first round, Buffalo) and West Virginia's Geno Smith (second round, N.Y. Jets). He backed up Russell Wilson with the Wolfpack before inheriting the starting assignment as a junior and ultimately throwing 62 TD passes in two years.
The Bucs have a bye next week before hosting Philadelphia on Oct. 13.
"Mike is a smart, tough football player who loves the game," Schiano said. "He's not going to be perfect, but he's going to do his best to do what the coaching staff tells him to do."
His prospective top weapon, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, is questionable with a rib injury.
But the other players insist the transition won't impact the team's confidence.
"To be 0-3, it bothers me a little bit, but I'm fine. We'll bounce back," safety Mark Barron said. "We just have to put it all together. As long as we come out and execute and everybody's on the same page, then we have the players to make whatever play needs to be made. We believe in the scheme, so we've just got to come out and execute."
Meanwhile, Arizona is trying to bounce back after a 31-7 loss to New Orleans in which linebackers Sam Acho (leg), Lorenzo Alexander (foot) and Alex Okafor (biceps) sustained season-ending injuries and safety Rashad Johnson suffered the season's most gruesome malady when he missed the second half after losing the tip of his left middle finger.
Johnson had surgery this week and is doubtful for Sunday.
Additionally, nose tackle Dan Williams was absent after his father died in a car accident on the way to the Saints game. Williams is questionable to return against the Buccaneers.
Still, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett insists positivity won't be a problem.
"The only bad thing is we can't go 15-1," he said. "A lot of football left. No one should feel sorry for themselves. Sometimes it takes a good loss like this to re-evaluate yourself."
Arizona scored first against New Orleans last week when Alfonso Smith went in from three yards to complete a 75-yard drive. It only managed 172 total yards after that, however, including eight consecutive punts and a pair of Carson Palmer interceptions.
Palmer has a 72.3 passer rating, has thrown three touchdowns and four INTs for an offense that's 23rd in the league with an average of 328.3 yards per game.
"We did too many things to shoot ourselves in the foot," guard Daryn Colledge said. "You can't play football like that on the road."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Though the Buccaneers have a top-shelf running back in second-year man Doug Martin, the Cardinals' third-ranked defense against the run (73.3 yards per game) might necessitate Glennon flexing his passing muscles in his initial NFL start.
Arizona has surrendered 297 yards per game through the air through three weeks, which could mean an auspicious beginning for the youngster.
Because Arizona isn't exactly bursting at the seams with proven run options -- Rashad Mendenhall has just 155 yards on 40 carries through three weeks -- it may prompt Palmer to try his luck with a Buccaneers secondary that features new acquisition Darrelle Revis. Tampa Bay is in the middle of the NFL pack against the pass, allowing 237.3 yards per game -- 15th in the league.
The Buccaneers had dropped their first two games by a combined three points and were feeling good heading into last week at Foxborough, but the resurgence was postponed by another sluggish offensive output.
Expect an energy jolt with the new QB against a Cardinals team that's nothing if not shell-shocked after a preposterously difficult third week.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Buccaneers 20, Cardinals 17