TAMPA — Of the questions and high expectations surrounding the Bucs as they enter their 2011 season, ranking high on a lot of people’s lists is the performance of quarterback Josh Freeman.
According to an article published in the USA Today, Josh Freeman is on the cusp of becoming an elite NFL quarterback. This comes of little suprise to those who follow the Buccaneers and have witnessed Freeman’s growth from the 19th overall selection in the 2009 Draft, to the captain of a ship that takes no prisoners and never gives up without letting you know who they are.
“When you get good, it’s not a time to relax. It’s a time to move forward and see what your limitations are. I’m going to keep going”
-Buccaneers Quarterback Josh Freeman
Freeman was drafted to be groomed and not to play a Mark Sanchez and produce immediately, even if he was capable of doing much more. Freeman watched from the bench as the retooling and rebuilding ’09 Bucs squad squandered away their first seven games. But fresh out of the Bye Week and at home against old rival Green Bay, Freeman made his debut in spectacular fashion. He led the Bucs to a ten-point, 38-28 victory for Tampa Bay. Not only was it the first of their season, but the first of Freeman’s career. He went on to lead the Bucs to a 4-5 record under his command, 3 of which came consecutively at the end of the season against the Seahawks and Saints on the road and the Falcons at home.
Despite losing 5 games in ’09, the Bucs and Freeman had little expected of them heading into 2010. That’s when Freeman showed the best of what was glimpsed in his 7 game run the year previous. He passed for 3,451 yards and threw 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. Freeman’s 2010 TD-INT ratio was 2nd best in the NFL. The guy who finished above him: Tom Brady.
“It’s always difficult to see another young, challenging quarterback develop right before your eyes in your division,” says New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. “Now it’s Josh Freeman.”
That development has grown a strong leader for the Buccaneers, who have lacked a true franchise quarterback really their entire existence. Freeman, in just his third year out of college, had gained enough respect and enough credibility in the Bucs lockerroom to demand his teammates show up for unofficial practices during the lockout and have them show up.
“He prepares like a coach,” said Bucs head Coach Raheem Morris says. “It’s definitely showing up.”
The practices, led and organized by Freeman, consisted of three days of two-a-days.
“We didn’t come out here to sit around and look pretty,” Freeman said of the mini-camp. “We came out here to get some work in.”
Hearing that from a third year quarterback is an amazing thing. Like Derrick Rose is for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Josh Freeman will be the voice, the face and the pulse of the Buccaneers for a long time. So many qualities are shared between the two: the leadership, the electrifying playmaking, the endless and fearless search for a way to win, the humility. The comparison’s will enamor Bucs fans even more if Freeman can replicate Rose’s success with his team and even one upping him and reaching a championship.
“When you get good, it’s not a time to relax. It’s a time to move forward and see what your limitations are. I’m going to keep going,” he says. Anybody familiar with the NBA and Derrick Rose can easily see this statement’s crossover appeal as it could easily be said by Freeman or Rose. This, is an absolutely outstanding thing for Bucs fans. After-all, Rose was awarded the NBA’s MVP last year, an award that may very much lie in Freeman’s future.
Freeman’s young age and his sky-high potential mixed with his abundance of premium quality leadership skills is evidence enough that he’s not done developing into an elite NFL quarterback who one day will hoist a Super Bow trophy above his head and for his warriors.