On Thursday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially severed ties with demoted quarterback Josh Freeman, ending nearly a month of explosive accusations made about Freeman, head coach Greg Schiano, and the entire organization.
But the disconnect between the former 17th overall pick and the organization that once deemed him its ‘franchise quarterback’ started long before the players-only meetings, alleged captains’ vote-rigging, and drug rumors emerged.
Here’s a timeline of how things unfolded, dating back to the end of the 2012 season.
December 31, 2012
One day after the Bucs beat the Atlanta Falcons in the season finale to finish 7-9, head coach Greg Schiano was asked if Josh Freeman was his starting quarterback going forward. He responded, “I’m not all in with myself yet, so how can I be all in with Josh Freeman or any other player?”
Schiano noted Freeman’s franchise-record 4,065 passing yards. “There are a lot of things that you can say, ‘wow.’ Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah, but they frustrate him too. And I am not ducking the question because quite frankly I like Josh Freeman and I want to make sure I don’t get ahead of things here and that I really evaluate every single thing to what is best for this organization.”
Schiano added, “Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. I hope that it happens here. But again at the end of the day I have to evaluate everything before I say that is what we are doing.”
February 24, 2013
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports reported that Freeman and Schiano had put up a façade and that their relationship was on the rocks. Reports surfaced from the NFL Scouting Combine that the Bucs were shopping Freeman and were looking to draft a quarterback.
April 26, 2013
On Day 2 of the NFL Draft, the Bucs used a third-round pick (73rd overall) to select quarterback Mike Glennon out of N.C. State. Glennon passed for 4,031 yards, 31 touchdowns in his senior season with the Wolfpack, including five touchdowns against both UNC and Clemson.
While some began speculating on Glennon’s role with the Buccaneers, Schiano attempted to quash the speculation with, “The fact of the matter is, we have a starting quarterback,” referring to Josh Freeman.
May 19, 2013
In an interview with Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, Schiano said his new rookie quarterback “can play quickly” if needed. “But our situation will be only if he’s needed…or if he wins the job. Look, I’m not against that. We have a starting quarterback. It’s not like we’re looking to find a starter. But competition is competition. Mike Glennon is a fierce competitor.”
July 1, 2013
In a rare in-studio appearance on NFL Total Access, Schiano dismissed any notion of quarterback controversy, even when challenged by his previous statements. “I believe in competition, I do. And Mike Glennon is going to be a tremendous quarterback in his time. But we have a quarterback. It’s Josh Freeman. He had a real good spring, I mean a really good spring. I think it’s really coming together.”
“Being in this system for the second year now, and hearing the things over again after being able to study it, I’m really encouraged. I know Mike Sullivan, our offensive coordinator — he does a great job — he’s encouraged. We’re looking forward to big things. Josh is going to have a big year.”
July 28, 2013
At the Bucs’ annual night practice, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer denied a quarterback controversy too, despite not signing Freeman to a new deal. “Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — our family and our head coach [Greg Schiano] and our general manager [Mark Dominik] — are all on the same page…there [are] no problems there. We are all on the same page. Josh is working very hard. We expect great things from Josh this year and I’m confident he’ll do it.”
August 20, 2013
In a local radio interview with Tampa ESPN affiliate WDAE, Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton delivered some harsh criticism of Freeman. “He sometimes plays at a nice level…and I’ve watched him. I’ve watched him a lot. He just plays God-awful. That’s who you are, right? That’s who you are.” Tarkenton also said he “wasn’t going to make it” because of the question marks surrounding him going into the fifth and final year of his contract.
“Obviously he’s Fran Tarkenton. His career speaks for itself. He’s a Hall of Famer,” said Freeman in response. “But at the same time, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. The important thing is, the people in this building — coaches, teammates — they’ve got faith and they know who I am as a player.”
He said his father Ron gave him some valuable advice in high school, advice he still carries with him today. “You can’t let anybody pollute your thought process…telling you you’re great or telling you that you’re awful…either way, you know who you are. You’ve got to go after that.”
September 5, 2013
The Bucs announced team captains. For the first time since he became a full-time starter in 2010, Josh Freeman was not named a team captain.
September 9, 2013
In the season opener against the New York Jets, the Bucs lost 18-17. On the opening drive, Freeman encountered a headset malfunction and the Bucs were forced to take two delay-of-game penalties. He was sacked in the end zone for a safety. When asked about the communication issue Schiano said that Freeman needed to notify the staff that he was having headset issues.
“Then, after that, a string of procedures occurs which – again, I won’t go into all the details – but part of that is [quarterback] Josh has the ability to call his own play rather than burn a timeout or take a delay of game [penalty].”
The Bucs had previous headset issues in the second preseason game against the New England Patriots.
September 11, 2013
A source told Pro Football Talk that there was a players-only meeting just prior to the Jets game and that there was concern raised over the legitimacy of the captains’ vote. The next day, Schiano denied playing any role in manipulating the votes, stating that his job was merely to conduct the final tally. “That story is 100-percent inaccurate.”
Word then got out that Josh Freeman missed the team photo, which came after the captain’s vote, creating even more speculation about growing tension between Freeman and Schiano. Speculation also began about the source of the leak. Was it someone from inside the organization?
September 15, 2013
Just hours before the Bucs’ home opener against the New Orleans Saints, Jason LaCanfora reported that Freeman would seek a trade prior to the trade deadline.
When contacted by Sports Talk Florida, Freeman’s agent Erik Burkhardt said, “I cannot comment on any of the stories with Josh right now, except that his full focus is on beating the Saints today. He believes in his teammates and his own ability.”
Hours later, after the Bucs last 16-14, Freeman denied requesting a trade. “Actually, the first I’d heard of it was literally 10 seconds ago, right before I walked in here. But no, without a doubt, I’m a Buccaneer. I’m continuing to prepare, and try to go out every week to give my team a chance to win the game.”
September 22, 2013
The Bucs suffered their third-straight defeat, losing 23-3 to the New England Patriots. For the first time since a 41-0 shutout against the New Orleans Saints in December 2012, Freeman and the offense failed to produce a single touchdown. After the game, Schiano was asked if at any point, he considered pulling Freeman and bringing in rookie third-round draft pick Mike Glennon?
“No there wasn’t,” Schiano responded, acknowledging Freeman still gave the team its best chance to win. Freeman completed 19 of 41 passes for 236 yards and one interception. It was his third-straight game of completing less than 50-percent of his passes.
September 23, 2013
In his day-after-game press conference, Schiano was asked about his quarterback position. He responded, “Josh [Freeman] is our starter.” He reiterated it again when asked what it would take to make a change at the QB position. “Josh is our starter. That’s where we are.”
September 25, 2013
After meeting with general manager Mark Dominik and the Glazers, Schiano decided to bench Freeman. Mike Glennon was named the starter for Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals.
“This was a performance-based decision and the fact of the matter is we were not getting the job done on the field. That’s why we made the decision,” said Schiano.
September 26, 2013
Freeman did not speak to the media at One Buc Place, and later that evening, conducted an unauthorized interview with ESPN, telling Josina Anderson he disagreed with the move and felt a trade “would probably be the best option.”
September 29, 2013
Freeman was not only inactive, but was asked not to be on the field. Freeman chose to watch the game in a suite with his family but was told by team officials that he had to sit in the inactive suite. He was escorted out of his own suite, a move that did not sit well with family and friends standing nearby.
October 1, 2013
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Freeman was a stage one participant in the NFL’s substance abuse program and had a therapeutic use exemption. Freeman responded, saying he has ADHD, made a one-time-mistake by taking Ritalin instead of his prescribed Adderall, was a voluntary participant in the program.
“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,” said Freeman.
The NFLPA said it would launch an investigation to determine where the leaks came from.
October 2, 2013
When asked by reporters about being the source of the leak of Freeman’s confidential information, Schiano responded, “Absolutely not,” adding, “I know what I’ve done, and I’m 100 percent comfortable with my behavior. One hundred percent.”
Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated reported that Freeman had been fined twice in the last month for conduct detrimental to the team. More information surfaced about Freeman’s fines and infractions, which totaled $35,000 according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune.
Cummings’ report revealed that Freeman had violated five team rules since opening day, including missing the team breakfast and being late for the team bus in New York.
Freeman’s camp became increasingly upset over the fact that another private matter was leaked to the media, with Freeman unable to fight the allegations publicly due to the fact that it could be deemed as conduct detrimental to the team and he was essentially one violation away from possible suspension.
October 3, 2013
Bucs GM Mark Dominik attempted to find a willing trade partner but was unable to do so. The team officially released Freeman, who at 25, leaves as the Bucs’ all-time leader in touchdowns (80), single-season touchdowns (27) and single-season passing yards (4,065). Freeman is now a free agent, and will receive over $6 million remaining in guaranteed money from the organization.