The Tampa Bay Bucs aren't going to renew QB Josh Freeman's contract, meaning it will expire in 2013.
The decision, obviously, comes with many caveats and intricacies. The Bucs don't want to be stuck with a quarterback who doesn't turn out to be as good as they hoped, specifically like the New York Jets are with Mark Sanchez, who is due $8.25 million next season. Given Freeman's erratic nature, this is a viable risk.
The other conundrum at play is the coach-quarterback dynamic in the NFL. The league has increasingly become quarterback dependent in the last few seasons, and coaches prefer – or need – to have their guy at the helm.
Greg Schiano didn't choose Freeman, Raheem Morris did. So, Freeman will have one more season to lock-up a long-term deal with the Bucs, or Schiano will cast him to the wind in favor of his choice.
This represents another major risk for Schiano and the Bucs. If Freeman fails to impress in 2013, it likely means the Bucs will miss the playoffs again. If Schiano were kept on, he'd be entering his third season with a new quarterback without any playoff games on his resume, and the Bucs stay on the slippery slope they've been on for the past decade. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times gives an excellent history lesson on the subject.
Matching up coaches with quarterbacks is crucial. When the deals don't align, quarterbacks have to learn new systems, coaches don't have “their guy” running their offense, and disaster can ensue. There's obviously more to success than this dynamic – as the New York Jets will tell you – but consistency certainly helps. It's why Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star went in on Andy Reid's first task with the Chiefs: Finding a stable quarterback.
It's a possible reason why Chip Kelly bailed on the NFL yet again, or, at the very least, part of that reason.
Kelly will want full control over his roster wherever he goes. The documented mutual interest between Kelly and the New England Patriots – which has John Canzano convinced Kelly may actually be waiting for Bill Belichick to retire to take over that opening when it comes – and Kelly's controlling nature indicates he knows the importance of choosing his quarterback, and roster, when he does make the leap. He has learned the lessons of Nick Saban, who lost out on getting Drew Brees in Miami when a team doctor ruled his injury would be too much of a risk, and was stuck with Daunte Culpepper in what turned into a futile effort.
The Eagles have committed to Nick Foles, have Mike Vick and a bunch of other overpaid stars on the roster. The Cleveland Browns are another mess. Why would Kelly give up Phil Knight, the Oregon Ducks and an almost guaranteed annual shot at BCS games to rework rosters made by previous GM's who likely want to show that what they built can stand?
That doesn't work in the NFL. Coaches, especially now, must either fit the mold of a team – as Mike Tomlin perfectly exemplified when taking over in Pittsburgh – or be given the chance to mold the team completely in their image, as Pete Carroll has now done in Seattle.
The Bucs will have to hope Freeman and Schiano can come together to be that pairing, or continue down the slide, the same slide Kelly dipped out on as soon as his interview with the Bucs was over one year ago.