“Intercepted. Poorly thrown ball by Freeman.” – Thom Brennaman, Fox Sports NFL (Week 15 versus the Saints)
Josh Freeman had a pretty awful 2011 campaign, so the bar was set pretty low heading into 2012. But while the bar was low, the expectations were still incredibly high, and the slack on Freeman’s struggles was beginning to run out. He started strong and put together three solid games in the middle of the season, but fell into old habits down the stretch. Was Josh Freeman a failure or is the future still bright in Tampa?
Josh Freeman started the season fairly well. He didn’t gain many yards, but he was accurate, and managed the Buccaneers offense in a 16-10 win over the Panthers.
A closer look at the play shows something more. Obviously, Freeman was under a bit of heat. The makeshift offensive lines the Buccaneers put on the field this season obviously hindered Josh’s ability to make plays. But there’s something else that may have contributed to Freeman’s struggles: Mike Williams has a tendency to give up on plays. On the play in question, Williams might have been Freeman’s intended target. However, seemingly split seconds after the ball leaves Freeman’s hand, Williams simply stops running, and the ball goes past him and past Stroughter and right to Corey Webster. So, Freeman might have benefited from some bad luck, as some plays may have been out of his control.
Every coin has two sides, and Freeman also benefited from some lucky plays. As Fox’s Troy Aikman pointed out, Freeman’s 41 yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams in the same week two game wasn’t the most conventional or wise decision. Freeman threw the ball very late, down the sideline, for Williams. Williams out-leaped his defender, and benefited from a lucky bounce off the opponent’s helmet, and wound up with a touchdown catch. A better defensive back may have turned this play into an interception, but the result stood as a Freeman touchdown pass. The Buccaneers quarterback would have a similar play result in a score against the Chiefs, as he threw a ball that would have been taken care of by a better corner, but instead became a long touchdown for Williams.
It was a very polarizing year for Freeman. He obviously did well enough to set franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. However, in terms of advanced metrics and quarterback rating, his season closely resembles Craig Erickson’s 1994 season as the Buccaneers’ signal caller. In other words, it was hardly spectacular apart from the sheer number of yards and scores. Josh Freeman supporters should be slow to praise his record setting performances, as the NFL is an evolving league and the conditions are conducive for a team to throw the ball all over the field. Not to mention the fact that only Brad Johnson has ever thrown more passes in a season in Buccaneers history.
Overall, Freeman had some good moments, but the sheer lack of accuracy and his ability to kill a drive with a poor throw or a turnover takes away a good portion of his points. 2013 will be a key season for Freeman, and I hope he’s ready to take a step forward. Otherwise, the Buccaneers are going to be a ship without a captain once again heading into 2014.