Pewter Report Intern
Despite Josh Freeman's recent struggles, the Buccaneers coaching staff appears firmly behind the former Kansas State star. Some fans who have given up on Freeman need to look not further than the Giants Eli Manning as an example of someone who may never develop into a Drew Brees, but is capable of bringing home a Lombardi Trophy.
Josh Freeman, who has thrown eight interceptions and just one touchdown in the past two games, has been the hot topic among many fans – and not in a good way.
Some fans are calling for him to be traded, or for the Bucs to draft or sign someone in the offseason. Most likely that is not going to happen this offseason. The available quarterbacks in the draft are mediocre (no RGIII or Andrew Luck), and there are no appealing free agents this year either. The most the Bucs will do is bring in a more suitable backup to Freeman that can actually challenge him.
Freeman is far from the reason the Bucs are 6-9. Yes, he can be blamed for the last two losses. When you throw eight interceptions, you deserve much of the blame. Although, even if Freeman hadn’t turned the ball over five times in the Saints game, could the offense really have scored 41 points?
Perhaps the Cowboys loss is another one that could be blamed on Freeman, although the play-calling in the game was not good at all. But in the games against the Giants, Redskins, Saints (first matchup), Falcons, and Eagles, Freeman was not the reason the Bucs lost. In all of the games above – aside from the Bronco’s game – Freeman did everything he could have done to win the game. He drove the offense down the field to score what would have been game-winning field goals and touchdowns in the Giants, Redskins, Falcons, and Eagles game. He had a career-day against the Saints in the first matchup in October, and Tampa Bay would have tied it up had Mike Williams not stepped out of bounds.
The secondary couldn’t do anything to stop those teams, which puts immense pressure on Freeman and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to score on every single drive against defenses much better than their own. If the Bucs had a better secondary – and/or defensive scheme – the Bucs are most likely a playoff team this year. They wouldn’t have left receivers wide open against the Redskins in the final drive. They wouldn’t have allowed a mediocre rookie quarterback – Nick Foles – to throw for 381 yards. They wouldn’t have allowed Eli Manning to throw for over 500 yards and have a career day.
An average secondary may not have won all of those games, but games against the Eagles, Redskins, and Saints should have been wins. That would put the Bucs at 9-6 with the opportunity to make the playoffs this Sunday against the Falcons team that has nothing to play for.
With a better secondary the Bucs would be a playoff team, and Josh Freeman would be a playoff quarterback.
A segment of Bucs fans are making Freeman out to be one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Yet, Freeman is actually having an almost identical year to Eli Manning Freeman, who owns two rings. Freeman has 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with an 82.3 quarterback rating. Manning has 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with an 83.6 rating. Before the games against the Rams and Saints, Freeman blew Manning’s stats away with a 92.8 quarterback rating.
It’s not like Manning is having a particularly bad year compared to past seasons. In fact in Manning’s first four seasons he had a quarterback rating of 70.5, while Freeman has had a rating of 79.9 through his first four seasons. However, Manning has won two Super Bowls, including one in his fourth year, while Freeman has yet to make the playoffs. Why? Most likely because Manning had a great defense.
Eli Manning is a perfect comparison to Josh Freeman because when both are good, they’re great. And when they’re bad, they’re really bad. But Manning has proven twice that it’s okay to have a few bad games. If Freeman has a real defense next year that doesn’t force him to score on every drive, then Freeman can take this team to the playoffs, and ultimately the Super Bowl.
Freeman is not an elite quarterback. Only quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady can win with bad defenses, Freeman isn’t there yet – and may never get to that point. But he doesn’t have to be, he just needs a decent defense and he can win.
Getting rid of Freeman means starting all over again, rebuilding the offense around whoever the new guy is. Tampa Bay doesn’t need to do that. Freeman has proven that he can do what it takes to win, even if he is inconsistent. But he’s not playing defense when the Eagles are scoring the game-winning touchdown.
Just to put into perspective how bad the secondary has been this year, according to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune, the Falcons need to throw for just 252 yards for the Bucs to have surrendered the most passing yards in the history of the NFL.
Does Freeman still make fans and coaches occasionally shake their head in frustration? Yes. But can he also make throws that some starting QBs in the league can only dream of making? You bet. There is no doubt Freeman needs to develop more consistency. And while it may come across as an excuse, the Sullivan offense, is a hybrid of Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbrides, with nuances of the old run-and-shoot, not an a simple scheme to master.
Yes, Freeman’s play has been bad the last couple of weeks, but his play was outstanding this season too. Teams can and have won with inconsistent quarterback play many times in the past, which is why the fans who are on the ledge need to take a step back and see what Freeman is able to do in his last season under contract.–Mark Cook contributed to this report
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