By Eric Schmidt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have undergone a disappointing start to the 2013 season, starting 0-3 out of the gate. Thoughts of possible post season play are seemingly distant memories and it’s still September. Tampa is struggling in virtually every facet of the game and quarterback play ranks atop that list. To say that Josh Freeman is struggling would be an understatement, so the question must be asked. When do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bench Josh Freeman?

The Buccaneers made no effort in this past offseason to extend Freeman’s contract and he is playing out the final year of his rookie contract. It’s nearly a certainty that Freeman will be elsewhere in 2014. His play has regressed despite fleeting moments of greatness which are shadowed in hours of mediocrity.

Remember the middle of the 2012 season? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were scoring frantically on offense, a pace which was rivaled by only the New England Patriots. Josh Freeman was breaking team records. It appeared that he was finally starting to reach his potential. Touchdowns came in bunches. There was even the faint discussion of a possible playoff run in Greg Schiano’s first season. Not so fast.

The old turnover-prone Josh Freeman returned and so did the losses. By week 11, the Buccaneers would not see and haven’t seen 30 points on the scoreboard again. Tampa dropped five of their last six and have yet to register one in the win column this year.

There has been a lot of talk in the last week or so about quarterback’s body language. We saw it yesterday with Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his head coach. We saw it last week with a furious Tom Brady on Thursday night as he struggles with his new receivers. If you observe Freeman’s body language, he looks defeated. He looks nearly emotionless. He does not resemble a leader.

Much has been made about the troubles surrounding the Buccaneers. Freeman was not voted a team captain. He reportedly missed a team photo. It was suggested that there is a rift between Freeman and head coach Greg Schiano, although both sides deny the rumors. Two weeks ago, Jason LaCanfora threw out the idea that Freeman would request a trade. Again denied.

Tampa used their third-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft to select North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon was recruited by Schiano when he was the head coach at Rutgers. When does he see action?

If Freeman is not in the plans for the future, then why continue to roll him out each week?

Freeman’s performance speaks for itself. His completion percentage ( 45.7%) is the lowest in the NFL. Actually he’s tied with Blaine Gabbert. Let that sink in for a minute. Blaine. Gabbert. He has two touchdown passes so far this season and three interceptions. He is averaging 190 yards passing a game. He’s the 29th ranked passer in the league. His passer rating is the lowest in the NFL among active starters.

In a league that is centered on the passing game, Freeman is simply not getting it done. Freeman has 571 total yards on the season while Aaron Rodgers threw for 480 in a single game last week.

In the last nine games the Buccaneers have averaged 14 points on offense. They are averaging 9 points per game this season.

Two teams are starting rookie quarterbacks this season, and the Buccaneers will face both of them. The New York Jets are starting Geno Smith while the Buffalo Bills are rolling with E. J. Manuel. These are rookies who have started three NFL games, Freeman is in his fifth season.

Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins quarterback started his college career as a wide receiver. He has 19 games under his belt and is completing 66.4% of his passes, averaging 276 yards per game and has led the Dolphins to a 3-0 start.

Smith is averaging 267 yards per game with a much worse receiving corps while Manuel is averaging 230 yards per contest. Both have more touchdown passes, and more importantly, both quarterbacks have more wins.

The season is slipping away for the Buccaneers. Greg Schiano’s seat is getting hotter each week. When do the Buccaneers pull the trigger on Glennon?

Is the rookie the answer? Most likely not but Schiano drafted him, he must see something. If Freeman is gone next season and Schiano somehow retains his job for the 2014 season, why not let Glennon see some action now and get some experience. At this rate, the Buccaneers are going to have a high draft choice next season, and it’s a pretty strong quarterback class. Why not see if Glennon has what it takes to start in the NFL or start scouting another quarterback for next season.

The NFL has changed in the last few decades. Teams used to draft quarterbacks and sit them on the bench for several seasons. Salary cap issues and free agency have changed all that. Rookies play right away.

It’s time to stop the excuses for Freeman. He doesn’t have what it takes to lead the Buccaneers to a championship. Period. He can be entertaining to watch sometimes but frustrating most of the time. The experiment is over, it’s failed.

The time has come to start Glennon. See what he’s got. There will be plenty of bumps and bruises along the way but we are already getting that from a five-year veteran with 60 career starts. Glennon went through all the offseason workouts, played in the preseason and has to have some grasp of the offense at this point. This team is not going to the playoffs, this team might not even finish 8-8, what’s the worst thing that can happen by starting Glennon? The Bucs lose?

Wait. They’re doing that now.

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