In a world without Josh Freeman, the Bucs would appear more desperate. In a world without Freeman, their fans would sound more frantic.
Yeah, you can say this much for Freeman, the Bucs' still-developing quarterback:
When it comes to this year's draft, it is Freeman who allows the calm.
As important as this year's draft appears to be, there seems to be a rather pleasant buzz attached to the anticipation. Perhaps that is because there isn't much controversy about the No. 3 pick. The Bucs are certain to have an opportunity to take a popular, widely approved choice.
Perhaps, too, it is because the Bucs are not in the market for a quarterback. If they were, you can only imagine the different way this draft would be interpreted. To sum it up, insanity would have ensued, and froth would be forthcoming.
Without Freeman, fans would be discussing Sam Bradford.
Without Freeman, fans would be debating Ben Roethlisberger.
Without Freeman, for crying out really loud, fans would be arguing about Tim Tebow.
Think of it as the sound of teeth grinding. Without Freeman, people would be talking about Donovan McNabb and Jake Delhomme and Jimmy Clausen and Jason Campbell and Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. In the end, we might even talk about JaMarcus Russell, but only if he could play defensive tackle.
Such fury shouldn't be difficult to imagine. If you recall, Freeman wasn't exactly the people's choice in last year's draft. If you had left it to most fans, they would have taken Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry instead. Or someone else. A lot of someone elses.
The thought of where that would leave the Bucs today is enough to make a strong man shudder.
In the NFL, there is nothing sadder — or potentially more reckless — than a team without a quarterback. And while Freeman still has a lot of proving to do, he at least gives the Bucs a focal point as they move forward. Because of him, the Bucs — and their fans — can look to other areas.
"Of the rookie quarterbacks from last year, I thought Mark Sanchez (of the Jets) was the best because he improved by the end of the year," ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said. "But throw by throw, play by play, he wasn't that much better than Josh. I thought Josh was second, with (Detroit's) Matt Stafford right behind him."
Where would the Bucs be without Freeman? Possibly, they could have the No. 1 pick in the draft. After all, Tampa Bay was 0-7 before Freeman took over last season, and it had the look of a team going nowhere at all. If the Bucs had never drafted Freeman, how many games would they have won last year? It's fair to say fewer than three.
Still, it would have taken some doing to win fewer than the one game the Rams won.
Right about now, the draft conversation could have fluctuated between whether the Bucs had enough picks to trade up to get Bradford and whether they should. Hey, I like Bradford, even if his shoulder is made out of peanut brittle. And I think Tebow is one of the iconic players of college football, but frankly, I'm willing to let him learn how to throw the ball somewhere else.
"Bradford looks pretty in the pocket," Dilfer said, "and he's familiar, so people think he's better than he is. But I don't think he's a better player than Josh."
Of course, if the Bucs needed a quarterback, fans would talk about veterans, too.
By now, the conversation would be heated over whether the Bucs blew it by allowing McNabb to go from Philadelphia to Washington. In turn, this would lead to a renewed debate over whether Jon Gruden should still be the Bucs coach, because it's easy to imagine how much Gruden would love to be reunited with McNabb.
You can also imagine a spirited disagreement or 12 when it came to the notion of the Bucs and Roethlisberger. Granted, the Steelers say they aren't going to trade him, but part of you wonders. Talk about legalities all you want, but it's going to be some time before Roethlisberger convinces most of the world he isn't a creep.
In a world without Freeman, where would the Bucs turn? Why, everywhere. It's what teams without quarterbacks do. And when they do, they use or trade away the picks that should be used to turn a team around.
This way is better. This way, the Bucs have a chance to make this draft a good one.
If they do, it was last year's draft that made it all possible.