Forget the fact that Greg Schiano is a defensive-minded coach. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is excited to play for Tampa Bay’s new head coach. Freeman cut short his vacation and flew in from his hometown on Friday to meet Schiano face-to-face.
“I was in Kansas City yesterday and I got the call from Mark Dominik,” Freeman said. “This is the first day and the first press conference and I really wanted to opportunity to meet Coach Schiano and show him that I am here and ready to go.
“I love his direction. He’s a very passionate coach, and I’m real excited to have the opportunity to play for him.”
One of the reasons why the big, 6-foot-5, 255-pound Freeman is excited is due to Schiano’s offensive philosophy.
“On the field what is it going to look like? Great defense, win the special teams battle, and be a physical offensive football team that takes shots down the field,” Schiano said. “Take shots down the field. It is very hard to go 12, 13, 14 play drives. If we miss on a shot we will line up and play defense again. Get the ball back and go after them again. Physical. Run the football physically and take shots down the field. That formula works. As long as you play great defense and win the kicking game that formula works.”
Taking shots down the field is a concept that brought a big smile to the strong-armed Freeman’s face.
“Obviously it his philosophy when it comes to how to win football games,” Freeman said. “You have to love it when he talks about taking shots downfield.”
In former offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s version of the West Coast offense, Freeman rarely took shots down the field. Instead, he did a lot of throwing short and intermediate routes.
In fact, in 2011, Freeman only had six passes travel further than 40 yards, and a couple of them were shorter passes that were turned into longer gains by the receiver. Freeman’s longest throw of the year traveled 65 yards, which was one of only two passes that covered 50 yards.
Tampa Bay's pass plays longer than 40 yards in 2011
Preston Parker 51-yard catch at Minnesota
Arrelious Benn 43-yard catch against Indianapolis
Arrelious Benn 65-yard catch against New Orleans (touchdown)
Dezmon Briscoe 46-yard catch at New Orleans
Preston Parker 48-yard catch at Atlanta
Mike Williams 42-yard catch at Atlanta
Schiano is thrilled to have a franchise-caliber quarterback like Freeman in place in Tampa Bay. Schiano’s Rutgers team squared off against Freeman and the Kansas State Wildcats in 2006 and prevailed, 37-10, to claim the Scarlet Knights’ first-ever bowl win.
“We did play against Josh Freeman, he was a freshman, but I can remember preparing for that game and being scared that if he broke out of the pocket we’re in trouble because he’s such a big man,” Schiano said. “I’m excited to have Josh here and have so many other talented players. And as we do everything, competition that’s what makes everybody (better). And we’re going to compete in every drill, in everything we do. Because that, again, if you do your best, we’ll win. And that’s what I’m going to demand of our players and of myself.”
Freeman recalls getting thumped by Rutgers back in 2006.
“That was a rude awakening,” Freeman said. “We were 7-5 and they were 10-2 and they lost at the end to West Virginia, and oh my goodness. Brian Leonard was jumping over people and Ray Rice was running through people.”
Freeman was held to completing just 10-of-21 passes for 129 yards against Schiano’s Scarlet Knights and threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Schiano’s Rutgers defense left a favorable impression on Freeman, as well as Schiano’s mantra of TBA, which stands for trust, belief and accountability.
“I love it. Those are things that are timeless,” Freeman said. “His coaching philosophy has had success at Rutgers and I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to play for him.
“That’s the only way to have success in this league – to have people buying in to his ‘trust, belief and accountability. There is really no other way. Everybody has to be in it full-tilt from Day One. I think the direction Coach Schiano is going to take this team is going to be great and it’s going to be exciting.”
Freeman admitted that he wasn’t part of Tampa Bay’s coaching search and put his trust in Dominik.
“I had a few discussions with Mark Dominik early on, but he said, ‘Just remove yourself and relax. You are going to get a great coach,’” Freeman said.
Although some pundits and media members lobbied for an offensive-minded coach, Dominik preferred to go get a coach with a defensive mentality like Schiano.
“We are a defensive town – I think Tampa is,” Dominik said. “Obviously, offenses are exploding in the league, but as you watch teams that are playing in the playoffs and teams that are in the Super Bowl, like the New York Giants, defense still matters.”
For Freeman, who tossed a career-high 22 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns in 2011 after throwing for a career-high 25 touchdowns and only six picks in 2010, he doesn’t mind having a coach like Schiano that has a defensive background. He’s excited about Schiano’s belief in a physical offense and taking shots down the field.
“Not at all,” Freeman said when asked if he was opposed to having a defensive-minded coach. “His mind is on winning football games and that is first on his mind regardless. I just love his philosophy on playing football and how to win. I’m excited.”
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