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Can Bucs’ trash turn into treasure? Again?

in Sports/The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Right now, he is a long way from being Doug Williams.

Right  now, he isn’t even up to Trent Dilfer, OK?

For long-time fans of the Tampa Bay Bucs, it might seem like an old horror movie remade. A quarterback the local team has signed on for fresh hope. Given the history of the team, can a Super Bowl be far behind?

In the case of Josh Freeman and the Miami Dolphins, why, yes, it can.

The Dolphins claimed Freeman off the trash heap Friday. They signed him to a one-year contract to be a backup quarterback. He gets a fresh team, a fresh jersey and a  fresh start. Just like all those other disposable quarterbacks of the Bucs.

This time, though, Freeman seems a long way from success.

You remember Freeman, the first-round draft pick from 2009, who left in shame after then-coach Greg Schiano grew weary of his off-the-field antics. Schiano cut Freeman in the middle of the season, although he had to suspect that would be the final act of his coaching tenure. He had grown tired of the fines, tired of the lateness, by a position that defines leadership.

“The conversations I had with Coach (Joe) Philbin were pretty awesome,” Freeman told the Miami Herald. “I think it will be a great fit.”

And so ended another chapter in the sordid tale of the Bucs’ quarterbacks.

At this point, the story feels familiar. Once, it was Williams who left in a contract dispute, only to later resurface and lead the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory over Denver. It was Steve Young, traded for pretty much nothing, who led the 49ers over San Diego. It was Trent Dilfer, who led the Baltimore Ravens over the New York Giants. Chris Chandler, who never won a game in Tampa Bay, led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl. Vinny Testaverde led the New York Jets to the AFC title game.

In other words, a lot of the Bucs’ reclaimed freight had been found in the winner’s circle.

Could it happen with Freeman?

At this point, it seems doubtful. Freeman left the Bucs as a guy who couldn’t find his way to the meeting rooms on time. He was fined five times and, at one point, nearly missed the team bus before a game against the Jets.

There was a time, however, when Freeman looked like one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. In his second year, he led a young Bucs’ team to 10 victories, and he threw for 25 touchdowns with only six interceptions. It’s hard for an entire season to be a fluke. In those days, then-coach Raheem Morris raved that Freeman was one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. It seemed the Bucs had finally found their quarterback.

But those who doubted Freeman when he was the 17th pick overall out of Kansas State would turn out to be right. Freeman talked a good game about hungering to be a star, and for a while, the Bucs protected him and said he was the first guy into the facility to work. For a team that seems about to invest in another first-round quarterback this year, it seems a cautionary tale.

When Morris was fired after the 2011 season (in which Freeman set a franchise record with 37 touchdowns), things turned ugly for Freeman.

He and Schiano, an old-school disciplinarian, clashed from the start, and the team finished 7-9. After an 0-3 start in 2012, Schiano had seen enough. Freeman was placed on waivers.

Since he has played only one game, a miserable 20-for-53 performance for the Minnesota Vikings. Since that night, several Vikings told NFL.com that Freeman was constantly late for meetings there, too.

The New York Giants signed him in the off-season. He never made it to training camp.

But Freeman is only 27, and he remains big with a powerful arm. For the Dolphins, where the general manager is former Bucs’ scouting director Dennis Hickey, that was enough to take a low-risk flyer on  a backup quarterback.

Will it work out for Freeman?

It’s doubtful. Whenever a quarterback gets a new team, it rarely does with the time that the initial trial comes with. Freeman is down to his last chance with an average football team.

Still, it worked for Williams. It worked for Young. It worked for Dilfer.

Around the NFL, ex-Buc quarterbacks seem to work out.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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