Tampa Bay has real QB problems

Posted: October 11, 2013

For Sunday's game in Tampa, one team will definitely start a very tall, slightly goofy-looking, inexperienced quarterback who began the season as a backup.

And the other team is the Eagles.

Actually, if Nick Foles does step in to replace Michael Vick against the Buccaneers, which looks increasingly likely, both teams will be in that same situation. For the Eagles, however, the transition to Foles, who did start six games as a rookie in 2012, should be relatively smooth.

Foles and Vick got an equal number of practice reps during the spring and summer, and Foles has been working with the first unit this week as Vick slowly recovers from the hamstring pull that sidelined him just before halftime against the Giants.

Down in Tampa, nothing much has been smooth for the 0-4 Bucs. When two players go down in training camp with potentially life-threatening staph infections and the whole facility has to be cleaned by guys wearing haz-mat suits, you get the sense it might be a tough season.

While the Eagles are dealing with some minor quarterback uncertainty this week, that's nothing compared with what the Buccaneers have endured. Starter Josh Freeman, in his fifth season with the team, struggled out of the gate and there was sniping back and forth between the quarterback and coach Greg Schiano.

At the height of that, and just before Freeman was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, someone leaked details of Freeman's participation in the NFL's drug-monitoring program. (Freeman was required to consent to Stage 1 testing, the lowest monitoring level, because he, apparently accidentally, took Ritalin instead of Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which had previously been diagnosed.)

The assumption, one shared by the NFL Players Association, was that Schiano or someone in the Tampa Bay organization leaked the confidential information to make Freeman look bad, something the quarterback is capable of all by himself. Freeman overslept and missed the team photo this year and, for the first time since his rookie season, his teammates didn't select him as one of the team captains.

Nevertheless, diming out a player's personal life is pretty skeevy behavior. It's almost as bad as having your defensive line dive at the quarterback's knees on kneel-down plays, which is another Schiano specialty.

"If I'm down in Tampa, I'm questioning this whole thing because it's a Mafia style," former Bucs star Warren Sapp, who will be inducted into the team's ring of honor next month, told NFL.com. Should be quite a ceremony.

Freeman asked for his release and, after the Bucs couldn't trade him, he got it. The Vikings signed Freeman, Glennon started on somewhat short notice in a 13-10 loss to Arizona, and now he gets his second shot against the Eagles. If something were to happen to Glennon, the Bucs would turn to the redoubtable Dan Orlovsky, who has played in 22 games during his nine seasons in the league.

In other words, keep your quarterback controversies in perspective. The Bucs have the real thing. The Eagles are just working on it so far.

The 6-foot-6 Glennon isn't controversial yet, even though he threw two interceptions and came out of his professional debut with a 55.7 quarterback rating. Glennon, a teammate of Eagles safety Earl Wolff at North Carolina State, has a big arm but a reputation for being immobile in the pocket.

"He had the best arm in the draft," Wolff said. "I know if we would have had a better record he would have gone a lot higher."

As it was, Glennon went in the third round of a weak quarterback draft and figured to sit behind Freeman for a while. That was before things blew up, however. Now the rookie gets to win over the fans, at least those who come to the games.

Schiano's term as coach hasn't yet reignited Raymond James Stadium, which is usually well shy of a sellout on game day. From 2010 to 2012, only five of the 24 Bucs home games were not blacked out on local television. This season, ownership has gone to the extraordinary step of buying unsold tickets to put the games on TV. Against the Cardinals two weeks ago, the Buccaneers drew just 44,956 fans to the stadium.

So, it's a bleak time on the bay, and Schiano is among the leading candidates for early dismissal from his post. That wouldn't be met with a lot of long faces around the league. Schiano is viewed as a "Charlie College" tough guy whose tactics are misplaced in the NFL. Just ask Tom Coughlin or Bruce Arians, two opposing coaches who weren't amused when Schiano ordered his defense to attack kneel-down plays.

"You have it in your head against them, even though it's unusual and you don't see it often," Foles said Wednesday. "I'm not in agreement with it. It's just not a good situation for anybody, but that's what they do, even if we don't like it."

The Bucs who have to carry it out aren't crazy about it, either, and the linemen often tip off the opposition to make sure the cheesy tactic isn't a surprise. That kind of thing, and ratting on one of your teammates, isn't good for locker-room support for a coach, but Schiano hasn't blinked.

"We may be down on the card right now, but there's a lot of fight left," Schiano said of the 0-4 start.

He better hope so, and a lot rides on the outcome of his strange quarterback situation. Compared with the Bucs, the Eagles don't even have a quarterback situation. Not yet, anyway.


bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports


inquirer.com/postpatterns

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