A deeper look at "communication" issues between Josh Freeman, receivers
The Bucs and quarterback Josh Freeman have talked a lot about “miscommunication” being the source of some of their offensive gaffes, including many of Freeman’s interceptions.
You’re probably tired of hearing about it and likely were annoyed to hear it from Freeman again on Sunday.
“You have to chalk it up to miscommunication,” he said of one of Sunday’s four interceptions, on a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. “There were things that happened out there today that resulted in us not being on the same page, and you have to be together to score points and win. Today, things just didn’t click as good as they should have.”
Bugs you, right?
Here’s the thing: Freeman’s telling the truth. No, this is not supposed to make you feel better. But it is intended to help you better understand what’s happening.
At this point, after 14 games, it’s clear that it is taking longer than anticipated for the Bucs to work out the kinks in their offense. And, because their passing game relies heavily on Freeman and the receivers reading the defense on the fly, then adjusting accordingly, a slightly different interpretation of coverages can have major consequences.
So, when you see Freeman throw the ball nowhere near Jackson and, as a result, the ball is intercepted, you should know that it’s not because Freeman is visually impaired. It’s because he expected Jackson to break his route to the inside – which he did not.
Who’s fault is it? The blame varies depending on the given scenario, sometimes assigned to Freeman, other times to the receivers.
“That’s the one thing that a lot of people don’t understand: you can run the same play 100 times and you could have 60 to 70 different scenarios with how different guys are (defending) it, how the leverage (is),” Freeman said. “There’s a number of different looks you can get and the thing is just getting on the same page and that’s basically what we need to do.
“And, assignment-wise, like I said, it falls on me. I’ve got to communicate better. I‘ve got to make sure everyone is on the same page. I’ve got to make sure everybody is doing exactly what they need to do.”
To be clear, this doesn't apply to Freeman's other issues, like inexplicably overthrowing wide-open Mike Williams in the end zone on Sunday. That's a whole other conversation.
As for the communication issues, none of it should come as a surprise. It’s also not an excuse. It can’t happen, shouldn’t happen and can’t continue.
While this isn’t the reason for all of Freeman’s struggles, it’s a recurring theme that’s been costly to the Bucs. The most important question is this: How long will this go on? Is this something the Bucs will continue to have to live with?
Maybe at this point it doesn’t matter, given the fact there are just two games remaining. But fixing these glitches needs to be a high offseason priority. If they continue, the Bucs seem destined to make mistakes that will cost them more games in the future.
In closing, we offer some hope. Consider this quote from former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, who we asked about the new offense a few months ago.
“You can take advantage of some defenses (in this offense), but also there's a certain amount of trust that comes between the quarterback and the receivers,” he said. “Sometimes, there may be mistakes, some interceptions. Your fault, my fault. And once they buy into it over time, it will be very successful."