Fran Tarkenton Talks Down Josh Freeman: A Study In Hypocrisy and Radio Sensationalism


Feb 3, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NFL former quarterback

Fran Tarkenton

gives an interview on radio row for Super Bowl week. The New York Giants will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI . Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Fran Tarkenton is an NFL Hall of Famer, because he was a quarterback who posted solid numbers in an era where not many other quarterbacks were doing the same. He played for 18 years, went 6-5 in the playoffs over his career, and never won a Super Bowl. But it was his longevity and his groundbreaking ability as a scrambler and runner in the NFL that helped him stand out and earn a trip to Canton.

These days Fran is a radio personality, sharing his thoughts on Fantasy Football on SiriusXM Radio (and also talking about retirement finances every week on the radio), and also calling in to other radio programs to give his opinions. On Tuesday morning, Fran called in to 620 WDAE in Tampa and had some ridiculous things to say about Josh Freeman.

"“If you gotta wait until your fourth or fifth year to prove you can play when you been playin’, you can’t play. Aaron Rodgers sat on the bench for two years, but when he got on the field he had the right stuff… If you put a gun to my head, I’d say [Josh Freeman isn’t] gonna make it.”"

Tarkenton began playing in an NFL that had only 14 teams, and by his sixth season there were 15 teams. So the fact that he was in the 7th (out of 14) in passer rating as a rookie, and still only 6th (out of 15) as a sixth year pro to indicate that humble beginnings can lead to better play down the road. Fran would improve after his sixth season and consistently post QB ratings in the 80’s and 90’s for most of the remainder of his NFL career, with a few hiccups.

Three of Fran’s worst seasons were his first three in the league, meaning he’s really discrediting his own career by saying that a quarterback “can’t play” if he exhibits inconsistency in his first few seasons in the NFL.

Fran would go on to say the following.

"“They’ve had him there for four years, and they have question marks about ya? You didn’t have question marks about Matt Ryan after his fourth year, or Joe Flacco… he’s not gonna be magical and all of a sudden be Aaron Rodgers.”"

Aug 16, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) warms up prior to a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco proclaimed himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL prior to the 2012 season, and the Ravens still did not re-sign the Delaware product until after he finished his 2012-2013 season with a Super Bowl trophy in his hand. And the comparisons between Josh Freeman and Joe Flacco as so incredibly numerous, it’s ridiculous to set Flacco apart from Freeman as if he’s on another level of quarterbacks.

Flacco had a similar first three years as a full-time starter when compared to Freeman, with Freeman tending towards being a bit more boom-or-bust (which is really the main criticism able to be given to the Buccaneers’ quarterback). Flacco’s supporting cast in Baltimore has been exponentially better than Freeman’s, and he has managed to limit his mistakes later in his career and develop into a solid quarterback capable of leading a winning team.

When asked what Josh Freeman lacks, Fran said it was the “it factor.”  He would also say of Freeman that “he plays ‘god awful.'”

Are you kidding me?

The “it factor” must be a statistic I’ve yet to see on Pro Football Reference, or a skill I have yet to find on tape while watching the Buccaneers, because it doesn’t seem to actually exist. It’s up there with “sophomore slump” as one of the most often used crutches for weak football analysis.

You could point to Josh Freeman’s tendency to throw off his back foot, or his sometimes awkward arm motions during delivery of passes. You could point to his mind-boggling mistakes and poor reads of coverages. You could even stoop so low as to say he’s never won, as if winning rests solely on the shoulders of a quarterback.

But to say that he’s god awful, and to not provide any further analysis besides “he’s not Aaron Rodgers,” shows signs of a typical radio host trolling for calls and listeners.

There are respected analysts who have questioned Josh Freeman’s future as the Buccaneers quarterback, so it’s not like Fran is the first to call out the Bucs’ signal caller. But to use such weak analysis and to ignore the facts of his own Hall of Fame career seems dishonest and sensationalist for Tarkenton.