TAMPA, Fla. -- At least three times in his postgame news conference, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said the blame should fall on him.
Let's take him at his word because he is precisely right.
For the second straight week, Freeman and Tampa Bay's passing game looked out of kilter. Freeman completed 9 of 22 passes for 125 yards with one touchdown and an interception and also lost a fumble.
"I'm going to have to take a look at the tape to tell you what's going on because it isn't just the quarterback," Schiano said. "It squarely is on me. I'm the head football coach and when we're not doing things offensively that we're capable of doing -- mostly in the passing game; I thought we ran the ball very well today -- we have to look at what we're doing coaching-wise, what we're doing execution-wise and, again, it falls on me.
"It doesn't fall on anybody else to make sure that we get it prepared and executed on game day, and certainly we didn't do that today."
Freeman is far from perfect, but the mess he and the Buccaneers are in isn't his fault. It's Schiano's fault.
Go ahead and blame the coach for the Sunday morning report that Freeman is expected to seek a trade. If Schiano had handled things differently from the day he first took this job, that type of report wouldn't have surfaced.
For the record, both the coach and the quarterback denied any knowledge of a trade demand or a plan to make a trade demand.
"No, it's new to me," Schiano said. "We've not had any conversations along those lines."
Does Freeman want out of Tampa Bay?
"Not at all," Freeman said. "The first I heard of it was literally 10 seconds ago or right before I walked in here. Without a doubt, I'm a Buccaneer and continuing to prepare and try to go out every week and give my team a chance to win the game."
When Schiano took the job last year, it appeared the one thing he had going for him was a franchise quarterback. But, to this point, Schiano and his coaching staff have done nothing but ruin Freeman.
Schiano is too rigid. He's trying to make Freeman into something he's not, and that has led to a quarterback regression unlike anything I've ever seen.
When he was coaching at Rutgers, Schiano preferred rah-rah leaders who were game managers. Then, he gets to Tampa Bay and inherits Freeman, a player a lot of coaches would like to have. But Freeman doesn't fit Schiano's profile of a quarterback. He's laid-back -- and he has the ability to be so much more than a game-manager.
Back in 2010, when the Bucs went 10-6, people were comparing Freeman to Ben Roethlisberger. He was showing the ability to extend plays with his legs and pulling out victories at the end of games.
Now the Bucs are narrowly losing games, and it shouldn't be that way -- especially when you consider that Tampa Bay's defense played well against New Orleans and running back Doug Martin rushed for 144 yards.
Look, the NFL isn't Rutgers. It is a quarterback-driven league and Schiano has run his quarterback into the ground by not playing to Freeman's strengths. That's the reason there are so many rumblings about the coach and quarterback not seeing eye to eye.
Will Freeman start next week in New England?
"Umm, yeah, I see no reason why he wouldn't be," Schiano said when asked that very question. "I have to evaluate the tape. That's out of left field a little bit. I'm not even thinking about that."
Maybe Schiano should evaluate more than tape. Maybe he should re-evaluate what he has to work with.
Guys such as Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson were brought in to win now. They didn't sign up for a rebuilding job. Turning things over to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon anytime soon isn't going to bring instant wins for the Bucs.
If Schiano's going to save this season (and, potentially, his job), he needs to turn Freeman loose and let the quarterback be himself -- assuming it's not already too late to rescue Freeman.