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July 26, 2012 @ 7:00 am
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2012 Training Camp Issue

Point-Counterpoint: Is Freeman In A Make-Or-Break Year?

WRITTEN_BY Mark Cook Mark Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

Editor-In-Chief
Buccaneers franchise quarterback Josh Freeman is the subject of this month's Point-Counterpoint article. Is 2012 a make-or-break year for Freeman? Find out what the Pewter Reporters think right here.

POINT-COUNTERPOINT TOPIC: How Important Is This Season For Josh Freeman?

POINT
By Mark Cook

Bucs Could Move On From Freeman With Another Bad Year


With the all of the optimism surrounding the 2012 Buccaneers season, it will all go up in smoke unless Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback, Josh Freeman, can rebound and regain his 2010 form. Tampa Bay has a number of question marks, but maybe none more than which Freeman will show up September 9 when Tampa Bay hosts the Panthers at Raymond James.

Not only is Freeman’s reputation on the line, but also that of general manager Mark Dominik, who stuck his neck out and moved up in the 2009 draft to take the Kansas State product in his first real power-play move after being replacing Bruce Allen.

Scott, in my opinion this is a make-or-break year for No. 5.

Freeman’s initial season was like that of a majority of rookies – full of ups and downs. In 10 games during the 2009 campaign, Freeman completed 158 passes for 1,855 yards with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. In his first career start, the former Wildcat led the Bucs to a fourth quarter, come-from-behind victory against the Green Bay Packers. Then four weeks later, he tossed five interceptions at Carolina. Up the hill and back down again was the story of Freeman’s rookie season, although he isn’t the first – or won’t be the last – to have a wild ride in his first season under center.

While Freeman showed potential in 2009, it was tempered. But the 2010 season proved to be magical year for both Freeman and his teammates, as behind Freeman’s 25 touchdowns (with just six interceptions) and 3,451 yards, the Buccaneers managed 10 wins and just missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.

Freeman came into the 2011 season – as did the entire team – with high hopes. 2010 was an incredible season for any quarterback, especially one in just his second year. Despite a tougher schedule, most felt Freeman would continue his path of development in the right direction. Scott, things didn’t turn out too well, and while there were issues across the board, Freeman’s play and decision-making contributed to the dismal season.

Which now leads us to 2012, and what I feel is a crucial year for Freeman. Under contract through just the 2013 season, the Buccaneers need to know exactly what they have in their franchise quarterback. Is he the quarterback of 2010, or the one we saw last season throwing 22 interceptions, forcing the football and making poor choices?

For Dominik and the fans’ sake, everyone has their fingers crossed Freeman can recapture some of his past magic. If Freeman can rebound the Buccaneers would be wise to try and lock him up to a long-term contract before 2013. But at what price?

If he does rebound then the roller coaster continues. A poor season in 2009, a great year in 2010, followed up with a terrible 2011 and a rebound 2012? That track record doesn’t bode well for 2013, does it?

How much patience will Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan have with Freeman in 2012? That is a question to be determined at a later date, but neither of these coaches were part of the organization in 2009 when Freeman was drafted, and neither will have any loyalty to him. Schiano has already proven his low tolerance level for players he feels isn’t up to his standards, evidenced by the release of Tanard Jackson and the departure via trade of tight end Kellen Winslow.

Coaching careers are much shorter than they were 20 years ago and NFL owners don’t have patience for five-year turnaround plans as they did years ago. It is a “win now” league, and Schiano will immediately feel the heat if the Buccaneers replicate their 4-12 2011 season this year. A big part of the team’s success or failure is squarely on Freeman.

Tampa Bay knows financially it would be advantageous to get Freeman signed before he enters his final year. If he rebounds in 2012, then follows it up with another good 2013 season, Freeman can break the bank (see Drew Brees). So if the Buccaneers can see enough improvement this year they make a chance on signing him to an extension.

But if Freeman follows up his poor 2011 season with one more, the result could be No. 5 looking for a new home – along with the general manager that drafted him. In my opinion 2012 represents a make-or-break year for Freeman, what’s your thoughts Scott?

COUNTERPOINT
By Scott Reynolds


2013 Is The Real Make-Or-Break Season For Freeman

Mark, let’s be real. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is not in a make-or-break year in 2012.

Not only is Tampa Bay committed to him by virtue of the fact that the team used its 2009 first-round draft pick to select him out of Kansas State University, but also because the Bucs have already picked up his fifth year, which was an option year, on Freeman’s contract. That will pay him $10.45 million next year and extends his contract for one more year through 2013. Freeman is set to earn $8.58 million in base salary and bonus money this season.

Not only is Freeman going to be the starting quarterback in 2012, he will also be the team’s starter next year due to the guaranteed money he has coming to him. Freeman would have to absolutely bomb as a quarterback this year for the team to really lose the confidence in him.

Despite the fact that head coach Greg Schiano, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan or quarterbacks coach Ron Turner doesn’t have any allegiance to him because they are new, Freeman has already done a lot to win them over. Freeman’s work ethic has been outstanding this offseason, demonstrated mostly by losing close to 30 pounds this offseason and being a regular fixture in the film room at One Buccaneer Place with Turner and Sullivan to properly digest the offensive scheme and the playbook.

Freeman has the full confidence of general manager Mark Dominik, who made him his first-ever selection when he took over the draft room in 2009. As long as Dominik is in power at One Buccaneer Place Freeman will have an ally when it comes to being under center.

Freeman knows he has to play smarter in 2012 than he did in 2011 when he threw a career-high 22 interceptions and only 16 touchdowns. He took too many chances last year in the passing game, forcing too many throws to tight end Kellen Winslow, who spent too much time lobbying for the ball.

That’s one of the reasons why the team traded Winslow this offseason. Winslow was too vocal in the huddle and the Buccaneers need Freeman to be the offensive leader in that environment, not a tight end whose better days may be in the rearview mirror.

Having a better and more productive running game this year – led by LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin – should help take some of the pressure off Freeman’s shoulders and create more one-on-one opportunities in the play-action passing game. That’s where Tampa Bay’s quarterback thrived in 2010, throwing 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions in his first full season as a starter.

By shedding weight down to 225 pounds this offseason, Freeman should be more mobile and feel more comfortable scrambling out of the pocket than he did last year when he weighed 255. He has done everything he can from a physical and mental standpoint this offseason to prepare himself for the upcoming season. It would be shocking if Freeman didn’t improve, especially with the fact that the team has surrounded him with weapons and improved protection this offseason, including Martin, Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and new center Jeremy Zuttah.

Even if Freeman falters this year and fails to live up to expectations, he will get the benefit of the doubt from the team by playing in a transition year with a new head coach, a new quarterbacks coach, a new offensive scheme and having a new playcaller. Mark, the real make-or-break year for Freeman is in 2013, which is his contract year – not this year.

Last modified on Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:56

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Mark Cook

Mark Cook

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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    I agree with Scott that Freeman's make or break year would be 2013, but I don't believe that we have to be concerned with that. This is a totally different team because of the coaching staff. I sure hope that most fans understand that we are an 5-8 win team depending on luck and injuries at key positions.
  • avatar


    I love PR Magazine, but this was a poor topic to argue. Barring an injury, Freeman will be just fine.
  • avatar


    I tend to agree with Mark on this. He absloutely "bombed" last year. Another similar year makes 2 "bomb" years in a row. A bit tired of hearing that all Freemans problems were Winlsow's fault. I have yet to see any consistant accuracy and have not seen the anticipation to throw the ball before receivers make their breaks. Ability to read defenses is also questionable. Having said that, I do NOT expect Freeman to "bomb" this season, but if he does, how can we not begin to wonder if he's the "franchise" that everything in Buc Universe revolves around. Never will forget the quote from Morris about "the giant human walking the planet". BTW, we all know where Freeman went to school.
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