Last year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fans began to see the strings unravel with their potential franchise quarterback, as Josh Freeman started to react on the field to negative situations and miscommunications. The same Freeman who made a name for himself by remaining cool and calm under pressure and leading late game comebacks was now rattled by mistakes and frustrated by the failings of his offense. I found myself almost more concerned with Freeman’s outward display of displeasure than I was about his inaccuracies and inconsistencies as a quarterback.
So there is encouraging news out of Bucs’ camp about Freeman’s mentality heading into this important 2013 season that awaits, and good news about the coaching staff’s expectations for their young, talented signal caller.
“He’s been very demonstrative,” quarterbacks coach John McNulty said during last week’s minicamp. “He’s been very authoritative out there on the field. I think your attitude and your performance as a quarterback will bring the other guys along. I don’t think he has to turn around and get on guys.
“I think it’s his urgency, his inflection, his demeanor. Everything has been high energy and positive and going at a fast pace. Guys don’t have a choice but to go along with him.”
This is great news for Buccaneer fans, especially those fans who continue to have faith in Freeman as the leader of this team going forward. Going into his contract year, he has every excuse to be selfish and closed-off, shunning the team for not believing in him and offering him a contract extension. But instead, he looks driven and motivated, looking to lead the team to great things and model his 2013 after the 2012 season of Joe Flacco.
The comparisons between Flacco and Freeman are incredibly numerous, with both tall, strong-armed quarterbacks suffering from poor accuracy but showing poise in pressure situations. They also both entered their contract years with lots of expectations to prove themselves worthy of a long-term contract worthy of a franchise quarterback. Joe Flacco led his team to a Super Bowl victory in his contract year, so it’s up to Freeman to have a similarly positive result (but not necessarily a Super Bowl) to earn a big paycheck.
Ultimately, Freeman’s future will be determined by his production on the field. But he’ll also need to show the leadership and competitive edge that will win Greg Schiano over to his side. Freeman has shown he’s capable of clutch moments over the course of his career, and combining that poise with a fully matured skillset would mean the Buccaneers have found the franchise QB they’ve sought for the entirety of their existence.