TAMPA — Since Football 101 seems to be a serious issue with the Tampa Bay Bucs, we offer some vocabulary basics.
Hobson's Choice is defined as the "necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives." This obviously fits right in with coach Greg Schiano's game plan, as he decides whether to play Larry, Moe or Curley at quarterback .
Starter Josh Freeman has been all about the yuk-yuks, but not the good kind, in three starts this season. Freeman has a completion percentage of 45.7 to go along with two TDs and three interceptions. But the most important stat is 0-3 — the Bucs' record that casts a pall over the rest of the season.
The Bucs may have a roster with some star-power, but as a collective whole they are a terrible football team. Maybe it's too early to blow up the season and look toward 2014, but what the hey, the Cleveland Browns have embraced that business model and things went splendidly for them on Sunday.
Not so much for the Bucs, who lost to the New England Patriots 23-3 on an afternoon when they squandered numerous scoring chances. It wasn't all on Freeman, who managed to complete only four of 19 passes inside the Patriots' 40-yard-line. There were dropped passes, two turnovers on downs, a missed chippy field goal and enough general malaise to amp up the Monday Morning anxiety level at One Buc Place.
"There's a whole bunch of us who have to get our stuff straight," Schiano said on Monday, reiterating that Freeman will remain the starter when the team faces the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Freeman really isn't the guy. But neither is backup Mike Glennon, a rookie from North Carolina State.
Hobson's Choice it is.
The problem with keeping Freeman under center is keeping the masses in check, or from storming the sidelines. The Bucs weren't advertised as a bunch of also-ran slugs, particularly after a 7-9 rookie season by Schiano, a guy who is big on discipline.
That style seems diametrically opposed to what is transpiring on the field. The Bucs are making silly mistakes — "details" as Schiano notes — which leads to 0-3 and a whole lot of questions about whether the right people are in place from the top of the organization (general manager Mark Dominik) to an expendable kicker (Rian Lindell, who has missed half of his four field goals this season).
"We need something," guard Carl Nicks said.
What exactly is the compelling problem. A new quarterback? Cut the kicker? Tebow time? (Just kidding). A cleansing séance at Cassadaga?
An 0-3 start is not permanent purgatory. But the issue is how quickly the Bucs can start cleaning up details before the paying public grows disinterested.
The Bucs have not won a playoff game since Jan. 26, 2003, when Jon Gruden led the team to a Super Bowl title in San Diego. Since then, the Bucs have lost twice in wildcard playoff appearances (2005, 2007).
Schiano is supposed to be Mr. Fix It. There's no immediate pressure regarding his job security, but this is a big boy league. The coach and the quarterback always get an inordinate amount of scrutiny. Right now, it doesn't look good for either man.
"Nothing surprises me in this game. Ever," Schiano said. "Disappointed yes, but not discouraged. We'll get it."
The question is when? Traditionalists like Schiano like to consider each individual game the most important one. Schiano and his team have failed three times.
They can't keep bringing home an "F" on the report card without serious consequences.
Even if that means taking a flyer on a rookie quarterback. It beats getting stuck in the muck with an under-achieving veteran every week or taking a company field trip to Cassadaga.