Recently, SI.com writer Tom Mantzouranis did a preview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 offseason, but it turned into a rant against the Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman. Mantzouranis had this to say about Freeman and the Buccaneers:
At the team’s other big problem, under center, don’t expect it to be a big player either in the draft or free agency. The Bucs are going to play this year out with Freeman, and that’s a giant shoe dangling over the team’s 2013, threatening to drop at any second.
We’ll be looking at the Bucs and seeing a team that has improved in the secondary, but maybe not enough, with a quarterback that threatens to destroy a team that should otherwise be squarely in the playoff race.
So is the former Kansas State quarterback poised to have that kind of impact on the 2013 Buccaneers? It’s not out of the question. In a season where the offense put up numbers that had never been achieved in team history, Freeman was the center of more controversy and scrutiny than he was praise and confidence. Consistency remains the main concern with the Buccaneer signal caller, as he shows the ability to make the right throw, but also the propensity to abandon his better judgement and fundamentals in favor of mind-blowing decisions.
In terms of how he will impact the Buccaneers in the upcoming NFL season, the answer lies in the consistency of other aspects of the team. A healthy offensive line will be a key, as this will take pressure off of Josh Freeman and allow him time to make better decisions. The consistent effort of Mike Williams will help prevent some of the interceptions we saw this season, as Williams does tend to ease up on some routes and allow defensive backs to make a play on the ball. The continued success of Doug Martin is obviously a key, as running the ball takes the game out of the hands of Freeman. A better defense that doesn’t put the Buccaneers in losing positions would help, as well, as opposing teams can take more chances on defense with a lead, and will play differently knowing that their offense is going to have no problem moving the ball. Imagine if the Buccaneers didn’t have to rely on Josh Freeman in crunch time against the Giants this season, and the lead the offense had built was good enough to hold onto a victory?
I have had my moments of frustration with Josh Freeman, and still have my doubts as to his qualifications as a franchise quarterback. But consider that Joe Flacco was the 12th rated passer in the NFL in 2012, and he won Super Bowl MVP. Freeman does not need to be the superstar leader of the team to bring them to where they want to be. He does need to limit his mistakes. And it’s those mistakes that will make or break the Buccaneers in 2013. Freeman did improve from 2011 to 2012, and a continued focus on protecting the football next year should move Freeman up the quarterback ratings to where Flacco ranked this past season. So while Freeman is capable of destroying the Buccaneers playoff hopes, he’s also capable of giving them enough of a contribution to spark a playoff run. Such is the volatile life of an NFL quarterback.