Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano made up his mind months ago. That’s why Josh Freeman has been limited to 21 plays so far this preseason nearly an NFL low for starting quarterbacks through two games.

Schiano no longer needs to be convinced Freeman is his best option.

Still Freeman’s preseason performance however brief has only affirmed his coach’s belief. Though the first-team offense has not been especially productive — 55 yards and one field goal in four total series — Schiano saw Freeman display some franchise-caliber chops.

Take for example the third-and-10 play from the Bucs’ 42-yard-line on the first offensive series at New England last week. Freeman executed arguably the most difficult pass a quarterback has to make — a 30-yard out along the right sideline — only to have it sail through receiver Kevin Ogletree’s hands.

While most casual observers saw little more than an incomplete pass that ended the Bucs’ first drive after three plays Schiano saw a “Hall of Fame throw’’ by Freeman.

“He just zipped it right by me at eye level” Schiano said of Freeman who will see extended playing time tonight against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. “You see that and you just shake your head. There aren’t a lot of guys living who can make those throws. That’s special.’’

So too was the poise Freeman displayed while taking two sacks on the next series. While the sacks looked bad to most Schiano’s trained eye saw an elite-level trait that can’t be taught.

“He’s probably the best in the National Football League at standing in the pocket and keeping his vision down the field’’ Schiano said. “I’ve never been around a guy that stands in there as well and moves up in the pocket as well and doesn’t let the rush get to him better than he does.

“So that kind of fits all the reasoning why (he’s our starter).”

Not everyone sees Freeman the way Schiano does. Despite Freeman setting Bucs franchise records for passing yards (4065) and touchdown passes (27) last season a legion of detractors has grown around him.

Freeman’s play this preseason has not silenced the mob. He has taken four sacks while completing six of 10 passes for 42 yards and no touchdowns.

Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton spoke the loudest saying this week during a radio interview on 620 AM that Freeman was “God-awful’’ at times and he had concluded Freeman simply “can’t play’’ in the NFL.