It's officially panic time in Tampa, where the Bucs lost their home opener to the New Orleans Saints16-14 on a swishy and shocking Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
After heavy rains and a threat of lightning delayed the game for one hour and nine minutes in the first quarter, the downpour became heavier as game wore on and the Bucs blew another one, culminating a controversial week in Tampa.
With his team milking a 14-13 lead late in the game, Schiano opted for a conservative third-down run and then a 47-yard field goal attempt with 1:06 left in the game. But Rian Lindell missed, setting up Drew Brees for a five-play 54-yard drive culminating with Garrett Hartley's game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired.
As daggers go, this one cuts to the bone. The Bucs are 0-2 but leading the NFL in negative chatter and speculation. The Bucs awoke to a report on cbssports.com that Freeman wanted out before the trade deadline, not long after news broke that Freeman had lost his team-captain status and there'd been a players-only meeting.
"This team is a resilient team. Their head coach is a resilient guy," Schiano said. "I understand there will be a huge contingent that will make it difficult for us to do that."
This isn't all on Schiano and Freeman. Consider that the Bucs have blown 11 fourth-quarter leads since Freeman arrived here from Kansas State in 2009. Schiano inherited Freeman as his quarterback when Schiano arrived from Rutgers last year.
Whether it's true or not, the perception is that they are a couple stuck in a loveless marriage. And they'll be quite a bit of the negative chatter that will leave ears burning for both men.
Despite a strong defensive effort that included a goal-line stand just before halftime, the Bucs seemed terribly undisciplined. Three personal fouls and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty does not bode well for a coach who was brought in last year to play bad cop in the locker room and clean up the la-di-da mess left behind by Raheem Morris.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Where was the discipline last week when a late hit cost the Bucs an opening-week victory at the New York Jets?
Freeman, the mercurial quarterback who was supposed to break out big-time in his fifth season in the league, seems only capable of becoming a bust. He completed just 9 of 22 passes for 125 yards Sunday with a touchdown and a pick.
His Yea!-or-Nay! inconsistencies were reflected perfectly in the third quarter when he threw deep to Vincent Jackson, who out-jumped the defender, and broke free for a 73-yard score. But that was negated by an illegal-formation penalty against tackle Demar Dotson.
Just three plays later, Freeman threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins.
Normally, an 0-2 start would simply make for a lingering hangover heading into the weekend for the Bucs and their fans. But there's a lot of noise in the system already. Throw in a field trip next weekend hosted by the Brady Bunch in New England, and it's understandable if some people start feeling a bit under siege.
"On game days I shut my phone off and try not to focus on anything other than the game plan," Freeman said, denying the trade report. "It's not my job to critique writing. It's to focus on football."
Freeman is going to get critiqued a lot, and he's not exactly playing to rave reviews. Who is going to give a shout-out to a quarterback who has completed less than half of his passes to start the season?
It's difficult to read the tea leaves on how this will play out, but the more Freeman struggles with consistency issues, the greater the case for third-round draft pick Mike Glennon, a quarterback more in the mold of Schiano's blueprint.
The NFL is all about the coach and the quarterback.
Right now in Tampa Bay, there are questions and concerns about both.George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego