Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers informed the media and the world that they were giving up on their franchise quarterback.
Greg Schiano held a press conference this morning in which he recanted his Monday statement of “Josh Freeman is our starting quarterback”, and announced that the team would be moving forward with rookie QB out of N.C. State, Mike Glennon at the helm.
This is the part where Bucs Nation celebrates, right? I mean, this is what we’ve all wanted since 2011 — the year the Bucs went 4-12.
Well, I believe a move had to be made, and it’s sad to see Josh’s career start the way it has, but I’m also no more excited to watch Tampa play this weekend than I was on Monday when Freeman was still No. 1 on the depth chart.
Here’s why: I believe Josh Freeman had and still has the potential to be a top 15 quarterback in this league — and let me tell you, we’d be in the playoff race if Freeman could currently be ranked 10-15.
I am here to make the claim that Freeman was set up to fail by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
During the 2008 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs when just a year earlier, they finished with that same record and got in. Just three weeks after the 2008 season ended, the Bucs experienced one of their biggest front office turnovers in franchise history as they fired both head coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen along with the majority of their staff. Following the move, Tampa hired Mark Dominik as their new General Manager and gave the team coaching staff makeover with first year coaches at head coach (Raheem Morris), offensive coordinator (Jeff Jagodzinski, replaced by Greg Olson before the season) and defensive coordinator (Jim Bates) — here we are five years later and none of these men are to be found.
The two coordinator positions seemed to be good hires at the time with Bates interviewing for head coaching positions since 2004 and Jagodzinski being an NFL offensive coordinator for years, as well as a head coach at Boston College. However, just as Jagodzinski was able to instill within his players all the tomfoolery he had to offer, Raheem Morris fired him 10 days before the season and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. Raheem Morris was a head scratcher himself. He never held an NFL position higher than a defensive backs coach, but was a defensive coordinator for one year. Where you ask? Kansas State in 2005.
Enter Josh Freeman. In 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Freeman 17th overall out of KSU. In his two seasons as Kansas State’s full-time starter, Freeman threw for over 6,000 yards with 39 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also ran for over 400 yards in his final year, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL writers had this to say about Freeman:
Positives: Tall frame with a solid build. Arm strength allows him to make all of the NFL throws and attack the deep half. Stands tall, and will step up in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and deliver the ball to secondary target. Good, not great, quickness on release. Keeps the ball low over the middle, away from defenders. Can be accurate on fades and corner routes, although he needs a bit more air under the ball. Good straight-ahead runner with long strides and deceptive speed, can shed arm tackles and uses his tall frame to get extra yards after contact. Dropped some weight for his senior year to improve his footwork and speed. Works under center and in the shotgun.
Negatives: Must improve his footwork. Height makes him take long strides in his drop. Fails to step into his throws or square his shoulders at times, relying on his arm strength too often. Inconsistent accuracy from the pocket and throwing on the run. Needs to anticipate downfield throws better, sometimes getting the ball to his receiver a second early or late. Makes poor decisions trying to make plays that aren’t there, leading to turnovers. Doesn’t feel back-side pressure. Lacks touch on shorter throws. Ball comes out of his hands poorly at times, negating his arm strength. Sometimes pats the ball before the throws. Loose with the ball in the pocket and as a runner. Doesn’t move the pile as you’d expect in short-yardage situations, but his height allows him to be effective.
If I’m an NFL team, all that sounds like is “coach him up a little bit in his technique and mechanics, and you’ve got yourself a future Pro Bowler.”
To start the 2009 season — Freeman’s rookie year — the team went with veteran Byron Leftwich. After an 0-3 start, the team quickly made the switch to young, unconventional, run-first QB Josh Johnson — a TOTALLY different offensive weapon than Leftwich. Johnson went on to be 0-4 himself.
The quick move to such drastically different QBs should have been the dead giveaway that Olson had NO IDEA what he was doing.
So here the team sat at 0-7 and running out of options. With no where left to turn, they gave the keys to the franchise to a young and still untaught Josh Freeman. In his first game, he led the Bucs to their first win of the season over the Green Bay Packers, and the rest, you could say, is history — in a very bad way.
The Bucs would go on to finish Raheem Morris’ first year at 3-13, Freeman finished with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. At that point, we were all willing to accept Freeman’s learning curve. The problem was, and the point I’m here to argue is, there was no learning going on.
In 2010 the team replaced Olson’s quarterbacks coaching position with Alex Van Pelt, who hold the position for two years. As Olson continued to conservatively call plays and have a hold over the quarterbacks situation, Freeman’s learning became split and somewhat uninformative. Despite the division in coaching, Freeman threw for over 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 10-6 record — to me, this says Freeman’s natural ability was more NFL ready than Olson and Van Pelt’s coaching.
I am here to reiterate to all of you that the 2010 season was in fact more luck than anything else. In 2011, the team would go 4-12, Raheem Morris would lose control of the locker room because of his lack of discipline, and Freeman would continue to be stagnant in his growth as a quarterback as a result of Olson’s elementary scheme and offensive design. In his second year as a pro, Freeman knew more about drawing up an offense (and that’s not much more than what he knew when he was drafted) than Olson did.
Despite the terrible overall record, Freeman threw for more yards with 3,500, but saw his TD/INT ratio plummet with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
As 2012 rolled around, the Bucs front office cleaned house…. AGAIN and at the expense of their quarterback’s future.
This time, they hired a full disciplinarian and defensive oriented head coach in Greg Schiano. But, more importantly, they hired Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator, the man cited as a main reason for Eli Manning’s success.
Freeman began 2012 with high hopes. Because of this, the new coaches — after not being with him for all of his career — decided they had to change who he was (yeah, I don’t get it either). As time went on, Freeman began to question his decision making because of what his fourth new offensive coach and second new head coach were telling him — and let’s face it, Raheem Morris never “told him” how to do anything; he was self taught from 2010-2012. 2012 was also the year Tampa’s secondary was historically bad, literally, and Freeman had to throw his arm out to keep Tampa in games. This led to a lapse in mechanics at times which went under much more scrutiny than deserved.
So here we sit. Josh Freeman will go to bed tonight as a back up quarterback for the first time since November 7th of 2009, and you know what? It’s not all his fault.
I am a firm believer in coaches. I think they have a direct impact on the development and overall talent of player, sometimes more than natural talent itself.
Over five years, Josh Freeman has thrown more than 30 receptions (in one season) to: Antonio Bryant, Sammie Straughter, Kellen Winslow, Cadillac Williams, Arrelious Benn, Kregg Lumpkin, Dezmon Briscoe, Preston Parker, Doug Martin, Dallas Clark, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Only three of those players are still on the team.
Over five years, Josh Freeman has had starting running backs of: Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham, Kregg Lumpkin, Legarrette Blount and Doug Martin. Only one of those players is still on the team.
Over five years, Josh Freeman has been offensively and positionally coached by: Greg Olson, Alex Van Pelt, Mike Sullivan, Ron Turner and John McNulty. None have coached him positionally for more than two seasons.
My point with all of those names is this: Josh Freeman has experienced more turnover in the front office, player personnel and mentors than his talent could ever overcome.
On September 8th of this year, former Bucs RB Earnest Graham said this on twitter:
Josh has also stopped using his feet and has become a bit robotic. He’s not being a football player.
And, on September 22nd, he then tweeted this:
I don’t think it’s all Josh but that has never really mattered in this game, and rightfully so. I personally think he can be a heck of a QB.
As a Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Josh Freeman has over 13,000 yards, 80 touchdowns, 66 interceptions, nearly seven yards per throw, nearly 5 yards per rush, 58 percent completion percentage and an average QB rating of 78.8.
Freeman may have been a let down with all of the offensive talent the Bucs have assembled on the roster, and I sure as hell have questioned much of his decision making as of late. But, as for being a bust and a failure, well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed Josh Freeman long before he ever entered his contract year.