Jul 26, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) during training camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Establishing a Baseline: What To Expect From a More Consistent Josh Freeman

All offseason long, we’ve been talking about Josh Freeman’s more consistent environment in Tampa Bay heading into 2013. He has the same offensive coordinator for the second straight year, with the same first and second receiver, the same Pro Bowl running back, and at least the same offensive line, with some upgrades thanks to health and potential competition. The hope among Buccaneers’ faithful is that this consistency in situation will lead to consistency in performance for Mr. Freeman.

So what would that look like? What is a more consistent Josh Freeman capable of?

Just like I did with my analysis of the consistency of Doug Martin, I went through Josh Freeman’s 2012 season and removed his best two and worst two games, and then extrapolated out his “average game” season and compared it to other similar quarterbacks using the same method. Here’s what I found out:

Comp. Att. Comp. % Yards TD INT QB Rating
Josh Freeman 321 583 55.15 4184 28 15 83.54
Sam Bradford 343 567 60.47 3768 20 11 84.15
Jay Cutler 252 427 59.1 2922 16 11 81.84
Andy Dalton 331 535 61.85 3520 27 15 86.25
Joe Flacco 328 548 59.85 4003 21 8 89.08
Eli Manning 359 581 61.7 3948 26 15 87.2
Percent Change from Actual Statistics
Josh Freeman 105.01 104.42 100.56 102.93 103.7 86.27 102.37
Sam Bradford 104.47 102.84 101.58 101.78 95.24 82.05 101.88
Jay Cutler 98.93 98.35 100.59 96.35 86.12 77.92 100.66
Andy Dalton 100.51 101.26 99.25 95.94 98.77 91.67 98.68
Joe Flacco 103.47 103.20 100.26 104.86 96.97 80.00 101.57
Eli Manning 111.73 108.46 103.02 108.24 92.31 106.67 99.09

The top half of the chart shows the season of a player having a season of average games, or in other words, a 16 game season based on his average performance when you remove his best two and worst two stat lines. As you can see, apart from Completion Percentage, Josh Freeman is competitive with every other QB on this list when using this method. The bottom part of the chart shows what percentage the “average game” total is as compared to the actual total. So for Josh Freeman, a more consistent season would have theoretically produced 3.7% more touchdowns, as his “average game” season leads to 28 touchdowns, as opposed to the 27 he threw in 2012.

Jul 26, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) drops back to throw the ball during training camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s interesting to note that Josh Freeman is the only player who improves in every single category when using his average game extrapolation. His interceptions drop almost 14%, and everything else goes up by at least a slim margin. What this tells us is that a more consistent Josh Freeman, even without his best games, is a slightly better quarterback who creeps up into the top 15 range in terms of quarterback rating (which takes completion percentage into account in such a way that it’s not always the best measurement of Freeman’s performance, considering the average depth of throw he is called upon to make.

Of course, it’s not out of the question for the “average” Josh Freeman to improve in 2013. There is no one older than Freeman on this list, as the majority of these quarterbacks are in their mid 20’s or early 30’s. So in a consistent system with an improved offensive line (which will help Freeman face less pressure, something he struggles with), it’s fair to think that Freeman could have a more Flacco or Manning-like average game in 2013. I have already discussed three ways Freeman can improve upon his performance from 2012, and doing any of these things could rocket him up the quarterback rankings, as the margins are razor-thin in the middle of the pack for quarterbacks. Quarterbacks 9 to 16 are all within a 5 point range in QB Rating, and so an improvement from Freeman to get into this range could produce very respectable results.

The difference between this study and the study of Doug Martin is that we know that Josh Freeman is inconsistent, and we know that his inconsistencies are more damaging to the team because of the position he plays. So while it’s great to learn that the baseline Josh Freeman is better than the actual Josh Freeman, the problem is that the Buccaneers have to find a way to bring out the more consistent Freeman in 2013, or be forced to endure the same roller coaster they faced in 2012. If Josh is able to have a higher floor, even with a lower ceiling, he’ll be a valuable part of a balanced Buccaneer offense which will need to score enough to help a revamped defense win games and earn Freeman the contract he has yet to prove himself worthy of signing.

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