The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly decided to bench quarterback Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, a move that would be surprising if the franchise didn't have a history of rapid turnover under center. Unfortunately for Bucs fans, seeing quarterbacks get kicked to the curb has been a rite of fall over the years. In the 37-year history of the franchise, no starting quarterback has ever earned a second contract with the team.
Freeman isn't finished with the franchise just yet, but it may be only a matter of time before he is packing his bags to leave Tampa. He was rumored to have sought a trade after the team's Week 1 loss to the New York Jets. Freeman denied the report, but rumblings still persist that head coach Greg Schiano isn't a big fan of his inherited quarterback. The fact that Schiano selected Glennon in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft only added fuel.
Freeman, a first-round pick in 2009, wouldn't be the first seemingly top-flight quarterback drafted by the Buccaneers to start multiple seasons before drifting elsewhere. Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer were also first-rounders, and all three had varying levels of success before moving on. Two of them even won s.
Williams' story is particularly disheartening given the Bucs' fortunes. Drafted No. 17 overall in 1978, Williams was a relative success with the Buccaneers. Granted, his numbers were bad by modern standards. In five years as a starter in Tampa Bay, he completed just 47.4 percent of his passes and threw 73 touchdowns to 73 interceptions. That said, he also led the Bucs to their first three playoff appearances in franchise history, including a spot in the 1979 NFC Championship Game.
Williams left Tampa on bad terms. After he helped the Buccaneers win five of their last six regular-season games in 1982 to make the playoffs, owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to re-sign the quarterback over a well-documented contract dispute, to the chagrin of fans and teammates. Williams wanted a $600,000 contract, but Culverhouse would only offer $400,000, and Williams left the Bucs to join the USFL.
After the USFL folded, Williams was signed by the Washington Redskins, where he led the team to a Super Bowl in 1987. He became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, much less earn MVP honors, by throwing four second-quarter touchdowns to beat John Elway's Denver Broncos.
After letting go of Williams in 1982, the Buccaneers would go on the miss the playoffs for 15 years straight. In that span, they started 12 different quarterbacks, though none struggled as gloriously as Testaverde. Drafted No. 1 overall in 1987 coming off a Heisman Trophy campaign at Miami, Testaverde spent six years in Tampa and threw 112 interceptions to 77 touchdowns. Somehow, he would go one to play another 15 years in the NFL.
Testaverde struggled during his four starts as a rookie, but not much worse than a typical young quarterback. His second season (his first as a full-time starter) was arguably one of the worst in league history. In 15 starts, Testaverde went 222-for-466 passing (47.6 percent) for 13 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, which still stands as the second-most interceptions ever thrown by a quarterback in a single season.
Testaverde's numbers improved, though he never threw more touchdown passes than interceptions in a season until he left Tampa to join the Cleveland Browns in 1993. His best years came midway through his career. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 1996 after finishing second in the NFL with 4,177 yards passing with the Baltimore Ravens. He had arguably his best season in 1998 when he threw a career high 29 touchdowns to seven interceptions to lead the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game.
Testaverde started six games in 2007 with the Carolina Panthers, throwing five touchdown passes to extend his NFL record 21 consecutive seasons with at least one touchdown pass. He also became the oldest player to win an NFL game at 44 years old. Not bad for supposedly being dumb and colorblind.
Dilfer was drafted No. 6 overall in 1994 with every expectation that he would become the Buccaneers' franchise quarterback. He was coming off a phenomenal year at Fresno State, during which he passed for 3,799 yards and threw 30 touchdowns and five interceptions. He promptly started his NFL career worse than Testaverde. Dilfer's first full season also came in his second year, during which he threw just four touchdowns to 18 interceptions in 16 games.
Thankfully for Bucs fans, Dilfer improved quickly. Two seasons later he earned a Pro Bowl nod for leading Tampa Bay back to the playoffs in 1997, completing 56.2 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That season would prove to be Dilfer's high-water mark in terms of his on-field performance, however. His performance declined again the next year, and he was released after the 1999 season in part because of a shoulder injury that held him out of the team's last six games, in part because he simply wasn't very good.
The next year, Dilfer won a Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens signed Dilfer in 2000 to be Tony Banks' backup. When Banks struggled, Dilfer took over the reins of the offense, and after a Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers the Ravens won 11 straight games culminating in a Super Bowl win over the New York Giants. Dilfer was mediocre throughout the run, never throwing for more than 190 yards and one touchdown pass in any game during the playoffs, but he took good enough care of the football to allow one of the NFL's all-time great defenses to dominate teams into submission.
The Buccaneers also spent relatively high draft picks on Craig Erickson (No 86 overall, 1992), Shaun King (No. 50 overall, 1999) and Chris Simms (No. 97 overall, 2003), but none of the three ever started more than 29 games in Tampa.
The team has had somewhat better success with veteran free-agent signings, with Brad Johnson notably leading the team to a Super Bowl victory two years after the Ravens won with Dilfer. Johnson earned the second Pro Bowl nod ever given to a Buccaneers quarterback that season. The third went to Jeff Garcia, who led the Buccaneers to their last playoff appearance in 2007 behind a steady 63.9-percent passing for 2,440 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Otherwise, the legacy of Buccaneers quarterbacks is as bad as any in the NFL. The hope is that Glennon will be the player to change the team's fortunes. He was certainly productive at NC State, passing for 4,031 yards and 36 touchdowns during his final season at NC State. Glennon isn't a sure-thing, however, hence his slip to the third round. Not that a first-round selection is a guarantee of success. See: Williams, Testaverde, Dilfer and Freeman.
The Buccaneers' season, and perhaps the fate of their second-year head coach, ride on the success of a fresh young talent once again. History suggests that the team is in trouble.