Midseason Report: Quarterbacks

Josh Freeman hasn't taken a step back.
Josh Freeman hasn't taken a step back. /
Josh Freeman hasn't taken a step back.
Josh Freeman hasn't taken a step back. /

The Buccaneers came into 2011 with no questions at quarterback, this was Josh Freeman’s team. For the first time in its history, the organization has a franchise quarterback, and for the next several years they will live and die on the shoulders of number five.

Unfortunately that’s a double edged sword because for all the good Freeman brings, you also have to remember he’s a young quarterback, just 23, in only his second full year as a starter. Realistically Freeman was going to have a difficult time continuing on the remarkable season he had in 2010. Not because he threw 25 touchdowns but because he only threw six interceptions. That’s a low number for anyone, let alone a second year guy who had just been handed the reins.

Freeman currently has just eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions, four more than he had all of last year. While I don’t think Bucs fans are down on him, more than a few have wondered if he’s taken a step back. That’s more complicated than just touchdowns and interceptions, a lot of it has to do with other factors. Josh Freeman is still developing, just not at the rate we all thought.

The Interception Myth

Six interceptions is an insanely low number. Some of the most accurate passers in the league have never had a single digit interception season, it’s remarkable that Josh Freeman only threw six last year. But that’s also one of the most misleading statistics you could possibly find. Josh Freeman should have had around 20.

An interception requires a lot to go right or a lot to go wrong, but either way it’s amazing how thin the difference is between a turnover and an incompletion. Take a look at Chad Henne in Miami last season and you see the unluckiest quarterbacks in football. Chad Henne threw 19 interceptions in 2010, but every single ball he threw within the grasps of a defender, save one, was picked. Josh Freeman on the other hand threw quite a few balls that defenders just outright dropped. There is no stat for bad throws into coverage but if you go back and watch the tape from last year you’ll also find a number of those too.

In a roundabout way what I’m saying is that in 2010 the football gods didn’t really hold Josh Freeman accountable. He should have probably thrown a lot more interceptions but instead got away with throwing into coverage and making some bad decisions.

This year, he’s not thinking like a quarterback who has made those mistakes, he’s thinking like a quarterback who got away with those things last year. He’s making the same throws, just this year he’s not getting the lucky tip or the drop or one of his own guys making a fantastic play for him. That’s the only difference, same guy with different luck.


Josh Freeman is still a better quarterback than he’s played like in the first eight games. He’s thrown for 2,004 yards and has a mediocre passer rating of 76.8, but that’s not all on him. Like I’ve said, the ball doesn’t bounce the same way two years in a row, but Freeman is still progressing.

The decision making will come and I think in a way maybe some of the mistakes will come with the silver lining of helping him to become a better quarterback. Freeman is imbued with the intangibles you must have to be a successful quarterback, especially the instinct to win games at the end, but he’s still developing from a fundamental standpoint, still learning to be a pro.

It’s not a matter of if he’s taken a step back, it’s more a matter of Josh Freeman not being as good as he looked last year, nor being as bad as he has looked at times this year. He’s a solid quarterback who can still be successful when the play breaks down, he’s comfortable and confident with the game on the line, but he’s still learning to read defenses and make decisions.

I expect a better second half out of Josh Freeman than first half, but don’t be surprised if he finishes with around as many picks as touchdowns.