TAMPA, Fla. -- In the wake of Josh Freeman's sudden departure last week, a lot of talk around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about him is about the former starting quarterback and the image of the team.
Although Freeman was cut last Wednesday to help the team move on, he remains a hot topic, as does the general demeanor of the team.
Head coach Greg Schiano was busy Monday explaining why he said other teams were calling the Bucs "the laughingstock of the NFL," and assistant coaches were still talking about Freeman.
Freeman's inability to function within the structure of the Tampa Bay offense led to his failure, according to the coaching staff.
Freeman, the 17th overall draft pick by the Bucs in the 2009 draft, signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Last year, in Schiano's first season with the team, Freeman became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 4,000 yards, but it was apparent all was not right between the quarterback and the former Rutgers coach.
This year, the issues began to crystallize when the Bucs took North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of the draft and the team did not elect Freeman as a captain in the preseason. Then there were missed meetings and leaked stories of acrimony as Freeman began a precipitous fall from favor that led to his being fined, benched, banned and then cut.
According to Bucs coaches, Freeman thrived in chaotic situations on the field. When things broke down, he was able to extend plays and fire the ball downfield with his strong arm. The Bucs even tried to create some of those scenarios.
However, that is not the kind of quarterback play Schiano coached at Rutgers, so the pairing appeared doomed to fail. The logical question is why general manager Mark Dominik didn't put Freeman on the trading block after 2012 when his value was still high.
That question sort of hangs there still as coaches say the whole thing came down to Freeman's lack of production in a hopelessly stalled offense.
"A lot of it I think you look at the numbers from the first three games and a lot of it we didn't execute or convert or however you want to say it," quarterbacks coach John McNulty said. "He's (completing passes at a rate of) 45 percent, and you can come back and say, 'Well, here's four drops.' But in the end, I think you just evaluate the whole thing together, production, and over time, where are we headed? And it's certainly not an easy decision. You know what the effect is on the community, the guy himself, the people in the locker room -- it's not something that's taken lightly. But at some point, you have to call it. It was time."
Oh, and one more little thing.
"And Mike's progress had something to do with it," McNulty said.
In Freeman's absence, Glennon made his first NFL start last week and threw two interceptions in the final three minutes of a 13-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Glennon is a gym rat who can make all the throws, a paint-by-the-numbers passer who will stick with his progressions and dissect defenses. His brother, Sean, was a quarterback for Virginia Tech.
"He's a very intelligent, hard-working, grinding player and this is his life," McNulty said. "It's the hardest job in football; I think it has to be your life. Not that you're never going to get married or leave the building. I'm just saying, it has to be that important to you that you feel the weight of, I have the whole team on your shoulders so I can't just go out there and say, 'Oh, I blew it.'
"There's going to be enough mistakes that happen in the game whether you get hit when you throw it or whatever. Where as long as I think the players know this guy is grinding through everything, he's picking up all this stuff, he's really making progress, I think it makes the team feel like we can rally behind this guy, and I think that is the feeling."
Meanwhile, Schiano followed up his comments to suite-holders last week that the Bucs were a laughingstock.
"That statement was really about kind of the discipline and the issues that were going on (when I took the job)," Schiano said Monday in his first comments since last week. "It wasn't the on-field football, and I apologize if I offended anybody with that. That was certainly not the purpose. ...
"(In 2012), I had to be a little over the top, because it was the adjustment to how far the other way things have gotten. That's really what I meant. Taken out of context, I could see how that could be offensive, and it certainly wasn't meant to be that in any way."
Speaking at a breakfast Friday with Dominik at his side, Schiano said, "What I walked into was a very, very bad situation, a very messy situation. A situation that quite frankly, nationally, the Buccaneers were the laughingstock of the National Football League. A laughingstock."