Monday, September 9, 2013

Josh Freeman's Days In Tampa Bay Are Numbered

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to draft Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, they probably figured that they had found the man that would lead their team for at least the next decade. Unfortunately, things have not gone as expected, and because of this, Freeman's tenure with the team will soon be coming to an end.

He started off with a tough first year, but he was given a pass on that, like most rookie quarterbacks are. Luckily for him, and the Bucs, he took a huge step forward and made the Pro Bowl while throwing for 3451 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions. It seemed that he had just gotten better in every facet of the game, as his completion percentage raised by 7 points, and he was pushing the ball downfield more than the previous year.

His QBR was good for an impressive 7th in the league, and but him ahead of established players like Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Phillip Rivers. Another part of his game that exited fans was his ability to come up big when the team needed him, as he totaled 5 fourth quarter comebacks in that year alone. It appeared that he was ready to take the next step forward and vault himself into the top class of quarterbacks in the NFL.
As we now know, that's not what happened. Freeman took a big step back in his 3rd season, and the Bucs paid the price. They went from 10 wins in 2010 to 4 in 2011, and a big part of that was the fact that Freeman turned the ball over 29 times; a sharp contrast from his 9 turnovers the year before. He wasn't throwing the ball downfield as much, and often looked to check down, which explains why his completion percentage actually raised by a point.

The following year was actually worse, and the team disappointed yet again. They were seen as a team that might be able to make some noise in their division, but they got off to a terrible start that they just weren't able to rebound from. They started 2-5, but then Freeman got hot and led them to 4 straight wins, and it looked as if they might be able to make a push towards the playoffs.

He didn't show up when the team needed him, though, and couldn't replicate the clutch numbers that he posted in 2010. The team lost 5 games in a row, and much of that can be attributed to Freeman's horrific play (back-to-back 4 interception games aren't a good thing).
His 4000 yards and 27 touchdowns from last year may fool those who only look at stats, but if you watch the games, you can see how costly he is to the team. Last year, he ranked 24th in the NFL in 3rd down completion percentage, which resulted in the drives stalling out and forced the defense to be on the field a lot more than they should have been.

The Buccaneers have an incredibly solid team outside of the quarterback position, with talent at the skill positions on offense in the form of Doug Martin, Mike Williams, and Vincent Jackson. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and their defense isn't anything to scoff at, especially with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson in the secondary.

The team used it's third round pick on Mike Glennon, a quarterback, and they have to be trying to develop him as quick as possible so that he's ready to start next season. If he's not, a better option would be to turn to a one-year stop gap like Chad Henne or Shaun Hill. The benefit of those two players is that they won't command the big money, long-term deal that Freeman is seeking.

It may be a little bit rough this year with Josh Freeman behind center, but if he continues to play the way that he has over the past couple years, don't worry, Bucs' fans, you won't have to see him in a Tampa Bay uniform much longer.

Follow Brian Rzeppa on Twitter, and check out his NBA work on The League News.

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