COMMENTARY | Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, "The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers exemplify the opposite of that statement. They are spiraling out of control, and as each day passes, the state of the organization transforms from bad to worse.
The Bucs are in the public eye for all the wrong reasons: Players are trashing the team and questioning coaching decisions in front of the media, a player and his agent have claimed that the head coach lied to cover up internal issues, the entire team facility had to be quarantined because of a MRSA outbreak in the offseason, the Josh Freeman situation is an absolute disaster, there are trust issues throughout, and most recently, confidential medical records were leaked to the press.
They are misusing their talent -- Tampa Bay made a splash with high-priced free agent acquisitions the past two seasons. Ownership brought in Pro-Bowlers Vincent Jackson, Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to fill in areas of need and propel Tampa Bay back into playoff contention. That's great news for the fan base and I applaud the initiative, but if the coaching staff doesn't allow these players to play to their strengths, it's doing more harm than good.
Case in point: Darrelle Revis has been playing in zone defense, even though he is better fitted playing man-on-man, where he excelled as a member of the New York Jets. Revis recently voiced his frustrations about the strict environment Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano is running. He also talked about his displeasure with the defensive scheme he's stuck playing, because it's a role that diminishes his value.
Tampa Bay isn't paying Revis to play zone. They acquired him to shut down the opposing team's best receiver, and he can't do that until he's allowed to play man coverage. "Revis Island" has been more like, "Revis District." The Buccaneers may have a good reason why they've decided to play him in zone, but after four games -- and zero wins -- it's time for the coaches to put aside procedure, and allow Revis to do what he does best.
They have no team discipline - Speaking of procedure, safety Dashon Goldson still hasn't learned how to tackle without getting flagged for unnecessary roughness. He's been penalized twice for late hits to a defenseless receiver, and once for a personal foul penalty. In total, his 68 penalty yards lead the league. Overall, the Bucs are the third-most penalized team in the league, and they are last in penalty differential, which calculates the penalties committed by the team versus the penalties committed by the opponent.
Coach Greg Schiano has a reputation for being a 'my way or the highway' type of rules enforcer. Some of his tactics suggest he believes the same regulations he made in the college ranks will translate to the NFL. However, Tampa Bay doesn't seem to be buying into his system. Maybe they did at first, but they aren't now. Dating back to last season, the Bucs have lost nine of their last 10 games. The writing is on the wall.
What's even more troublesome is the lack of discipline on the field is nothing compared to the turmoil in the locker room, and in front of the media. The cause of that turmoil -- the treatment of quarterback Josh Freeman.
The handling of the Freeman situation has been a disaster -- Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
If you've been following this team at all for the past couple weeks, you know that Freeman and Schiano haven't been seeing eye-to-eye for awhile. Before the season, it was rumored the head coach 'rigged' the captaincy vote because he didn't feel Freeman was portraying the qualities a leader should be, most notably, missing a team meeting, and the team photo.
After a poor start to the season, he then chose to bench Freeman in favor of third-round rookie Mike Glennon. That move in itself was questionable considering Freeman had been the team's starting quarterback for the previous four seasons, and he was entering a contract year. He really didn't do himself any favors though, completing just 45 percent of his throws and averaging 190 passing yards per game -- both last in the league.
After the benching, Freeman refused to speak with the local media, and instead scheduled an unsanctioned interview with ESPN. In the interview, he expressed his desire to be traded from the team. Naturally, this didn't sit well with the organization, so rather than bench him for the Week 4 game versus the Arizona Cardinals, the Bucs declared him inactive, refused to allow him on the sidelines, and forced him to watch the game from a team suite inside the stadium. Schiano later stated that the agreement he made with the former starter sitting in a team suite was a mutual decision. However, Freeman's agent disputed the report, calling it a lie.
Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik told reporters that he contacted all 31 teams to see if they were interested in trading for the beleaguered quarterback. Then, Sports Illustrated reported that Freeman was fined twice for conduct detrimental to the team -- once for scheduling an interview with ESPN, and the other for missing a team meeting. And lastly, after failed attempts to trade him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the only decision they could make to help the team recover -- they cut Freeman -- and ate his remaining $6.2 million salary.
Trust has been broken -- No one can be trusted in Tampa Bay. The players, the coaches, the general manager, and the ownership -- everyone has a hand in this debacle.
Less than a week ago, Freeman's confidential records were leaked to the press. He is involved in Stage 1 of the NFL drug program. The report forced Freeman to admit that he had ADHD and that he 'mistakenly' took Ritalin instead of Adderall, but voluntarily admitted himself into the program and passed 46 drug tests. Put aside the specifics of the medical records for a minute. How did these sealed records become available? A player's status in this program is supposed to remain secret until a suspension from the league is finalized. The consequences of exposing a player's medical records is a HIPAA violation, which brings a fine up to $500,000.
The leaking of this information has led many people to believe it was by someone inside the Bucs' organization. Under the NFL Players Association, only three people are supposed to know about a player entering the NFL Program. The player, the doctor who runs the tests on him, and the scientist at the lab who determines the validity of the drug tests. No one else. Not the head coach, not any teammates. Not even the ownership is supposed to know.
Schiano denied having any knowledge of the situation. Freeman disagreed, saying that he thinks it was an inside job. "Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions, and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information." Freeman said.
The NFLPA is thoroughly investigating the leak. This doesn't just affect Tampa Bay. It is a giant setback for the entire league. It damages the trust players have with coaches and team doctors. If one player's confidential records can get out, then no one is safe.
What does all this mean for Tampa Bay? -- The head coach endorsed Freeman as his starting quarterback two days before he decided to bench him in favor of a rookie. Numerous players have gone on record saying that everything is 'fine' in Tampa Bay. I'm not sure if they are trying to convince themselves, or quiet the public perception. The Josh Freeman "zoo" has affected this entire team. When a small part of the body is injured, the whole body is affected. With Freeman now gone, is the disease cured, or is this just the beginning?
James LoPresti lives in Tampa and has more than eight years experience working in print media with the Tampa Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @JLoPresti3114.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Josh Freeman
- Darrelle Revis
- Greg Schiano