How Much Blame Does Josh Freeman Deserve for the Buccaneers’ Recent Woes?
On the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' website it says that General Manager Mark Dominik has “gained a reputation as one of the league's top talent evaluators.” During his first draft with the Bucs in 2009 he traded up from the 19th selection to number 17 and chose quarterback Josh Freeman to lead his franchise. Since the middle of his rookie season Freeman has been the starter. It is has been a windy road. Where that road is leading seems very unsure.
As a starter Freeman's career record is 23-33. He has never made the playoffs though Tampa Bay has gotten close. At his best Freeman looks like he is on the cusp of becoming an elite signal caller. Unfortunately you never can be sure how long his excellent play will last. The Kansas State product has one year and $8.43 million dollars left on his contract, a relative bargain by NFL standards. However, Dominik needs to begin thinking about the future.
After starting this year 1-3 the Bucs got hot and at 6-4 were in control of their playoff destiny. Freeman deserves a lot of credit for energizing the team after a poor start. During a four game stretch he tossed 10 touchdowns, did not get picked off, hit on 59-percent of his throws, and averaged more than 275 yards in the air per game. Since then, the road has taken a nasty turn.
Tampa has lost five straight and Freeman should take most of the blame. During the losing streak he has been intercepted nine times, thrown only five touchdowns, and completed just 52-percent of his passes. After the first three loses, even at 6-7, the Bucs still had an outside chance to make the playoffs. The last two weeks he has one touchdown pass and eight picks.
Freeman's inconsistency is nothing new. In his first pro start he threw for three touchdowns in a win against the Packers. The following five weeks he threw a total of four TD's while being picked off 12 times. In 2010 it seemed as though he had “figured it out.” As a sophomore he had just one game all season with multiple interceptions and finished the year with 25 touchdown passes and six picks. When 2011 rolled around the complete opposite developed. His 22 interceptions were the second most in the league. Six times he failed to throw for 200 yards in a game. When you do not know week-to-week or year-to-year how your quarterback is going to play it is difficult to know exactly where your franchise stands.
There is little reason to release Freeman before his rookie contract expires. However, a long look at the draft, in free agency, and who might be available via trade is called for. It is very likely Freeman will be the 2013 opening day starter for the Bucs. I would not bet on him starting next year's finale. Barring a suddenly consistent and dependable Freeman developing, the windy road will lead to a different team and perhaps a job holding a clipboard in 2014.