The fundamental question: Can the Bucs win with Josh Freeman?
If my Twitter feed and talk radio is any indication, there’s a lot of obsession out there about whether Josh Freeman is the right man to quarterback the Buccaneers.
After one of the worst performances of his career on Sunday in New Orleans, that’s not a surprise. But this debate needs more context and a lot more objectivity.
For starters, let’s establish something: Freeman isn’t going anywhere. He’s got another season left on his contract and the only question is whether the Bucs extend his deal in the coming offseason.
So, the Bucs have their quarterback at least for now, and most likely for the very long term.
The question fans should be asking is not how Freeman compares to Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. It’s this: Can the Bucs win with Freeman? That’s a question that, at times, Freeman has answered affirmatively with his play. At other times, not so much.
Let’s take a look at each of the team’s eight losses and summarize Freeman’s role in them. After reading this, ask yourself: How much of the blame for this season do you put on Freeman’s shoulders?
Giants (41-34): Freeman throws for 243 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but the defense gave up a staggering 510 passing yards to Eli Manning. Freeman nearly positioned the Bucs for a comeback, but a late deep ball to Mike Williams was ruled out of bounds.
Cowboys (16-10): Freeman played his worst game of the season. He finishes 10 for 28 for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Bucs never showed an offensive spark.
Redskins (24-22): Freeman is 24 of 39 for 299 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The defense gave up the game-winning drive inside two minutes.
Saints (35-28): Freeman throws for a career-high 420 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. An apparent game-tying touchdown is overruled on the final play when Mike Williams is called for illegal touching. Drew Brees torches the defense with four touchdown passes.
Falcons (24-23): Freeman throws for 256 yards on 19-of-30 passing, but Matt Ryan has a better day with 353 yards against the Tampa Bay defense. The Bucs settled for three field goals on drives where they needed touchdowns, which reflects somewhat on Freeman.
Broncos (31-23): Freeman, under intense pressure from the Broncos defense, has a mixed day: 18 for 39 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Meanwhile, the defense is overmatched by Peyton Manning. Given the pass rush and poor blocking, it’s hard to determine how much blame to assess to Freeman.
Eagles (23-21): Freeman starts horribly, but he led the Bucs on three touchdown drives for 21 unanswered points in the second half. The defense gave up a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, with Eagles rookie Nick Foles throwing for 381 yards. Freeman finished 14 for 34 but avoided a pick and threw two touchdowns.
Saints (41-0): Freeman is 26 of 47 for 279 yards, but his four interceptions overshadowed all else. Two interceptions came in the redzone. Coupled with the defense’s collapse against Drew Brees, the Bucs never had a chance.
What’s not addressed here are the games that Freeman actually had a big hand in helping the Bucs win (at Carolina, for example). The four-game winning streak that got the Bucs into the playoff race was largely a result of Freeman and running back Doug Martin playing at Pro Bowl levels.
So, as stated above, ask yourself: Did Freeman not do enough to win in some of the aforementioned games? Are you prepared to argue that another quarterback would guarantee different outcomes?
We encourage you to let us know what you think.