Time to make Freeman a free man?
Another week and another disappointment. Another week another poor performance. Another week and I become more sure of something I have thought for a while. Josh Freeman is not the franchise quarterback we've been waiting for.
I, like many, watched with quiet optimism when Freeman took over the reins of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after their first London visit in 2009. I watched as the following season Freeman set the world alight with his levels of accuracy and consistency in throwing multiple TDs and very few interceptions.
He was a phenom and Bucs fans across the globe thought they had finally found their own Manning, Brady or Rodgers. Freeman was in that sort of company in 2010. But since then the real Josh Freeman has shown his ugly head.
Like any QB in this league Freeman has good drives, good games and makes some unbelievable plays. But that doesn't make him anything special, and it certainly make him a Franchise player. Rex Grossman, Bruce Gradkowski and Cleo Lemon have all led teams down the field for a win.
They've all made big plays. They've all given their teams a nice little run from time to time. They're seen as a bit of a joke around the league, let alone franchise quarterbacks. Freeman is better than those type of guys, a lot better, but is he anything special? Not in my opinion. He's a big guy, big arm and shows flashes of leadership but in general?
This season Freeman is said to have dropped a load of weight and be in great shape. To do this means that he played last season overweight and out of shape, at least NFL shape. Is that the mark of The Franchise? It's not his physical capabilities or even his use of them that bothers me. What bothers me is the mental side of the game and how that effects his use of his physical capabilities.
How many times this season (and last) have we seen Freeman throw not just an interception but a laser guided pass to an opposing player? Usually with no Bucs in the area. Sunday's game being a prime example. Add to that the amount times he over or under throws his targets while open is ridiculous.
I'm sorry but the true franchise players don't do that with his regularity. Having been back, in research for this column, and watched a lot of the Bucs offensive drives this year I was amazed at the time Freeman takes to throw the ball. The much maligned O-Line, coping with horrendous injuries, have given Freeman decent-good protection. He has taken so long to make a decision and release the ball that it ends up in a sack etc.
This is partly good coverage/receivers not getting separation but even if the decision is to run, throw it away or force it to a receiver the decision making process takes an age in comparison to the best.
Sunday's debacle in the Mardi Gras state showed me everything I'd been thinking in a microcosm. Key interceptions on terrible throws that gave the control of the game to Drew Brees and you don't get it back from him in a hurry. This forces a change in the fundamental game plan of give it to Doug.
I am sure this will be a controversial column, possibly an unpopular one, but I don't foresee a championship winning future for this Franchise with such inconsistent play at the most key position on the field. With his contract due for negotiation soon it'll be interesting to see how Mark Dominik and Co view the situation, especially with some the quarterbacks due to hit free agency and the draft in coming years.