Schiano believes Freeman will win Super Bowls, but wants to add QB competition
Bucs coach Greg Schiano believes Josh Freeman can win Super Bowls, but he indicated he would like to provide some competition for the enigmatic quarterback next season.
Freeman became the first Bucs player to pass for more than 4,000 yards and set a club record with 27 touchdowns. But he struggled down the stretch, throwing nine of his 17 interceptions in the final three games.
The Bucs started 6-4 but lost five games in a row before beating the Atlanta Falcons 22-17 Sunday to finish 7-9 in the first season under Schiano. He said he plans to begin an evaluation of all his coaches and players and will be critical of himself. But when asked if he was 'all in,' with Freeman, who has one year remaining on his contract, he stopped short of a ringing endorsement.
“That’s a question that, again, I’m not all in with myself yet, so how could I me all in with Josh Freeman or any other player?'' Schiano said. "I’m not side-stepping you, but I need to evaluate.
"What I can say is, a 4,000-yard passer, a touchdown record – there’s a lot of things you say, “Wow.’ Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah. There’s things that frustrate him, too. And I’m not ducking the question, because quite frankly, I really like Josh Freeman. But I want to make sure I don’t get ahead of my skis at all here and really evaluate every single thing to what’s best for this organization. Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. So, I hope that happens here. But again, at the end of the day, I have to evaluate everything before I can say that’s what we’re doing.
“The one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot, including the quarterback so I want to have as many good players on our football team as we can at every single position. It’s a little different in the NFL.''
Freeman was backed up this season by veteran Dan Orlovsky this season and has never been challenged for the No. 1 spot since taking over as a starter with nine games left in 2009.
"Again, you’re right, it was an up and down year, but you look at 4,000 yards, records all over the place, there’s a lot of positives there,'' Schiano said. "Certainly, when the expectation level is what we make it, and then you don’t reach that, then there’s also disappointment. Josh is probably his own toughest critic. So I don’t know if anything I’m going to tell him is going to shock him.''
Freeman benefitted from a strong supporting cast that included receiver Vincent Jackson, who led the Bucs with 1,384 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Receiver Mike Williams finished with 996 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Running back Doug Martin set a rookie record with 1,.454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. His 1,926 yards from scrimmage were the third most in the NFL.
However, Schiano said while the season was a 'disappointment,' he's encouraged by the Bucs' future.
"Any time I ever started anything, whatever the ultimate goal was, that’s my goal,'' Schiano said. "We didn’t win the Super Bowl, and I’m very disappointed about that. Did I think that we could? Yeah. You look at the Super Bowl champs from last year, they were 7-7. They were playing the final week to get into the playoffs, they did and then they went on a run. People say why you? Well, why not us? That didn’t happen. So is there disappointment there? Yes. Am I a silver lining guy? Yes. There were a lot of positives that happened this year. A ton of positive and I look at that as, man, that gives me motivation and encourages me, our fans and our team and everybody involved with the Buccaneers that, hey, there are brighter days ahead and there are opportunities to do what the ultimate goal is. Will we realize them? That’s going to be determined by how we evaluate things, how we tweak them and how we get better. But I’m excited to do that.’’
Of the Bucs' nine losses, seven were by one score and the Bucs blew fourth quarter leads in four of them. Fielding a more competitive team was a good sign for general manager Mark Dominik, but he says he expected more wins.
"I'm encouraged by the progress and direction of the franchise,'' Dominik said. "I think the most exciting thing about the 2012 season was the competitive level of our football team and the leadership that came to this football team, specifically from our head coaching position and coach Schiano, our assistant coaches and then trickled down to the free agents we signed and the young players that stepped up on this team throughout the season to get us to where we were.
"Now certainly, 7-9 is not where we want to be as an organization, that's not the expectations we have. I know Greg has, and I share the same feeling, that we're in this to win and that's really at the bottom line how we're all judged. But I'm encouraged and excited about the direction of our football program and where it's headed in 2013.''