Best Case Scenario: Can Josh Freeman be Eli Manning?


Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in Josh Freeman’s career, most Buccaneers’ fans have given up on the hope that he can be as good as Ben Roethlisberger, who was one of his main comparisons coming out of college.  Josh will never have the accuracy of Big Ben, and it appears he’ll struggle to have his limited interception numbers again either. In fact, it appears that was a bit more accuracte when they said his NFL comparison was Jason Campbell. Campbell, like Freeman, was only a handful of years into his career when he was cast aside by the Redskins, and Freeman could face a similar circumstance if his 2013 fails to impress. There are more telling bits of information on Josh’s draft profile on, and things he still struggles with, such as:

  • Fails to step into his throws
  • Inconsistent accuracy from the pocket and throwing on the run
  • Sometimes getting the ball to his receiver a second early or late
  • Prone to turnovers, makes poor decisions trying to make plays that aren’t there.
  • Lacks touch on shorter throws.

So what is the hope for the Buccaneers quarterback? What is the scenario that could play out to make the Buccaneers regret letting him go? What could make me seem like a complete idiot for doubting Freeman’s potential? The often inconsistent and regularly inaccurate QB could still turn into Eli Manning.

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When Eli Manning broke into the Giants starting lineup, he was not very good, to put it simply. His first season, which was a half season like Josh’s first season, was very poor, and he led his team to 1 win in 7 tries as the starter. Eli did not have the breakout year in his second year like Freeman did, but he did drastically improve, as his TD/INT ratio improved, completion percentage improved, and pretty much every other metric took a strong leap forward.

Manning’s third and fourth years were also similar to Josh’s third and fourth years, with plenty of ups and downs, including an awful stretch at the end of his 4th year, stemmed by a good performance in week 17 against a high-flying number 1 seeded team. (sounds eerily similar, doesn’t it?)

Manning never had a good completion percentage in his first few years in the league, and would go on runs of games with poor QB ratings on a regular basis.  The main difference between Freeman and Manning at this point in their careers was the team surrounding Manning, and the success they were having. The fourth season of Eli Manning’s career culminated in a Super Bowl victory. The fourth season of Josh Freeman’s career ended in the regular season.

So could Josh Freeman become more like Eli Manning? Manning took a huge step forward after the Super Bowl victory, improving his numbers yet again, and developing into a consistently top-10 quarterback.  His completion percentage never dropped below 59.9 for a season since he won the Super Bowl, and he increased his output in terms of yards and touchdowns as well.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

But let us also consider the Mike Sullivan affect. One of the reasons Sullivan was brought in to be offensive coordinator was because of his success coaching Eli Manning and developing him into a better quarterback. Manning’s yards and touchdowns took a step forward in 2010 and 2011 under Sullivan’s tutelage, but his completion percentage went down, and his interception numbers went back up sharply in Sullivan’s first year with Manning. Sullivan obviously prefers a more aggressive approach, and that led to Manning sporting the highest TD% and INT% of his career in 2010, the first year Mike was the QB coach in New York.

So could this be yet another trend that Josh will follow? Will the increased in interceptions be temporary, as Freeman gets used to Sullivan’s offense? Will he be able to develop into the powerhouse quarterback that Manning became in his second year under Sullivan, posting almost 5000 yards and 29 touchdowns? That’s the question here, because if Freeman is able to do so in 2013, it makes the decision to keep him a no-brainer. However, if Freeman fails to move forward in 2013, is the potential still there? Manning showed considerable improvement in year five of his career, and would continue to post more and more impressive numbers in the following seasons.

Josh Freeman will be the key figure for the Buccaneers in 2013, because his personal success will determine the Buccaneers success on the field, and his performance will determine the future of the franchise at the quarterback position. If Freeman is able to progress and improve his numbers as Manning did in his fifth year as a pro quarterback, the Buccaneers will likely want to keep him around and build up a Giants-like offense around him, which already has a good foundation with big play receivers and a workhorse running back. They’ll also need to build up a Giants-like defense, able to rush the passer and create turnovers. But the Bucs can only get into that New York state of mind if Josh Freeman can take the next step and become a franchise QB in 2013.

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