Young, Wild, and Free: A Look at the Present and Future of Josh Freeman

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Mandatory Credit ©USA TODAY Sports 12/9/2012

Josh Freeman is in the center of Tampa Bay sports discussion this week, and for all the wrong reasons. Comment section banter and twitter replies seemed to focus on his inaccuracies and antics in Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s as good of a time as any to take a look at Mr. Freeman, and ponder his future as the Buccaneers hopefully enter an prolonged era under the decision making of Mark Dominik and Coach Schiano.

First things first, I want to address his performance athletically and behaviorally on Sunday. His inconsistency in terms of accuracy is nothing new, and historically when the Bucs lose under his command, it is due to a subpar performance in terms of accuracy.  However, his frustration with teammates (and whether it was all directed at Tiquan Underwood, the offensive line, or anyone else on the field matters little to me) is something I’d like to never see again.

Visible frustration at teammates or officials is something that can definitely become contagious, and with such a young team surrounding Josh, he needs to set a positive example.

I completely understand being frustrated (believe me, I was yelling at the TV, and Josh, all afternoon), as a leader on this football team, Josh will need to take care of business in a more diplomatic way. Outbursts on the field out of frustration builds a reputation, and quite frankly I’m glad the Buccaneers don’t have Jay Cutler or Phillip Rivers, and I hope that Josh learns how to express displeasure with his teammates in a better, less public way. Even if Tiquan ran the wrong route, a young wideout is likely never going to respond to getting yelled at on the field.

Mandatory Credit ©Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports 11/25/2012

Back to the numbers for a look at the football aspect of Josh’s performance, and how it relates to the Bucs success. In the 23 wins Josh Freeman had led the Buccaneers to, his completion percentage is 62.6%, but in the 31 losses, his completion percentage dips to 56.8%. Interestingly enough, Freeman attempts fewer passes per game, and gets more yards per attempt, in Buccaneer victories. He throws an interception every 57 attempts in wins, but in defeats he throws a pick every 25 attempts.

So what does this regurgitation of statistics mean? Since he took over in that memorable game against the Packers in 2009, the story for the Bucs has been “As goes Josh Freeman, so go the Buccaneers.”

Unfortunately, to make another hip-hop reference, an alternate title for the story about Josh Freeman has been “Will the Real Josh Freeman please stand up?” This season, Josh had a fine string of outings, posting a QB rating over 100 for 5 straight weeks, and the Buccaneers performed accordingly, winning 4 of the 5 games, with the lone loss coming to the Saints, and that matchup was one illegal touch away from giving Josh a chance to earn yet another comeback victory. Of course, looking from a birds-eye view, one can see that 5 straight weeks of success turning into 4 wins means little for a team that is 6-7.

The inability to win without Josh Freeman playing at his best is clearly something that will lead to the streaky and volatile stretches of play that we as Buccaneer fans have to deal with week after week.