Last season was one of the better one’s of Josh Freeman’s young NFL career. He posted career highs in touchdowns (27) and yards with 4,065. This was enough to keep the Bucs in playoff contention for most of the season and earn Freeman some serious respect along the way - at least for the first 10 games of the season.
With only 6 games left and the Bucs in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, the inconsistency that has plagued Freeman for the entirety of his career came back in spades. Freeman “led” the Bucs to a 1-5 record down the stretch and watched their shot at the post-season vanish along the way. It was just more of the same for the Buccaneers and Freeman; one step forward and two steps back.
Now that Freeman is surrounded by playoff caliber talent and has only one year remaining on his contract, it’s time to put up or shut up. This season, more so than any before it, will indicate whether Freeman is ready to take that next step and solidify his role as the franchise quarterback in Tampa.
Freeman’s biggest hinderance has been his consistency - or lack thereof. When he was at his best last season, for reasons beyond me, the debate arose in some circles as to whether you would rather have Cam Newton or Josh Freeman to build your team around. Yes, seriously. At his worst Freeman is a turnover machine though that draws comparisons to the likes of Mark Sanchez. Maybe not that bad, but you get the point.
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Through Freeman’s first 10 games of last season he posted a 6-4 record and some bordering on elite numbers. His completion percentage was as high as 56.4 and he threw for 21 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. A 3 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio leaves little to complain about.
Then there’s the last 6 games of the season. The Bucs go 1-5 with Freeman throwing for only 6 touchdowns and an even more frightening 10 interceptions. Talk about disappearing in the clutch.
For the Bucs to make the playoffs they’re going to need Freemans A-game for more than a month at a time. They’ve surrounded him with great pieces, and most importantly shored up their defense with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. Time is running out for Freeman and so are the excuses for a losing record.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV