For a majority of his career Josh Freeman has been criticized for his consistency. Asides from people in One Buc Place, no one is sold that Freeman is the “elite” player who can bring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization to the next level. 2013 will be a contract year for Freeman, the fifth year quarterback will have to return to his 2010 form in order earn a big payday. Despite what the experts think, the statistics show that the Buccaneers made the right decision at quarterback during the 2009 draft. In this article I will justify why Freeman has been the best 2009 quarterback, and explain why he is set to have a big year.
The first part of my research that I want to bring up is durability. Durability is the most underrated statistic when it comes to good quarterbacks. Take Michael Vick for example, he was one of the most talented quarterbacks when he was on the Falcons, but injuries have plagued his career. You can’t help your team win games if you can’t handle the physical toll of a 16 game season. Freeman has only missed one start in his career at Tampa Bay, a stat that is often overlooked by most football analysts. Matt Stafford might have more touchdowns and less interceptions, but Freeman is the better choice in the long run.
Accuracy and decision-making are the second most important skills for a quarterback to possess, think Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. This is the area where the 2009 draft class struggles. Last season all three quarterbacks of the 2009 draft were among the 10 quarterbacks with the most interceptions. Aside from Sanchez, Freeman and Stafford have both exhibited the arm strength needed to be elite NFL players. In addition they have the wide-receivers in place to help them achieve top 10 rankings in passing-yardage. In order for Freeman to prove that he is a franchise quarterback he will have to improve himself this year, or become a free-agent. The beautiful thing about football is that every season is a fresh start, and in 2013 Freeman might have the best offensive line in the league to help give him more time to make the right decisions. If all goes well, Freeman might have another 64.6 QBR season and finally silence his critics.
During his second year in the Schiano offense, Freeman will be facing a group of opponents that went .500 last season. The stars are lining up for Freeman as Tampa Bay has the easiest schedule in the NFC South. Carolina was dealt the leagues hardest schedule (.543), New Orleans’s schedule was third (.539), and Atlanta’s upcoming opponents are .504. This difference could be the factor that helps Tampa Bay make the playoffs this year. The Buccaneers upcoming 2013 schedule might also help Freeman separate himself from his draft mates. Stafford, his main competition, has the leagues second hardest schedule (.539), and if Sanchez can keep his starting position over rookie Geno Smith, he will face two powerhouse divisions in the AFC East and NFC South.
Critics might be right about Freeman’s consistency, but one thing that has remained consistent, is the belief from Buccaneers’ management that they made the right pick in 2009. Even though Freeman was not Schiano’s pick, he went on NFL network and stood up for his quarterback when his job security was questioned.
“I believe in competition, and Mike Glennon is going to be a tremendous quarterback in his time,” Schiano said. “But we have a quarterback, it’s Josh Freeman. He had a really good spring. I think it’s really coming together, being in this system for a second year now and hearing the things over again after being able to study it, I’m really encouraged…. I know Mike Sullivan, our offensive coordinator, he’s encouraged. We’re looking forward to big things. Josh is going to have a big year.”
Last season Freeman lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense and produced a franchise single-season record 5,820 yards. The flashes of Freeman’s brilliance were good enough for Dominik to overlook the turnovers for another year.
This season could make or break Freeman’s career. Everything is set-up for him to succeed this year, and if he doesn’t he’ll have no one to blame but himself. But for the sake of the Buccaneers, I hope he proves all his critics wrong, including the Lions and Jets.