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Greg Olson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers focus on Josh Freeman's development

Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson imparted a lesson to young QB Josh Freeman while watching Brett Favre.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2009)

Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson imparted a lesson to young QB Josh Freeman while watching Brett Favre.

MOBILE, Ala. — Text messages volleyed between quarterback Josh Freeman and offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Sunday.

When Vikings quarterback Brett Favre threw an interception with the score tied, his team in possible field-goal range and only seconds remaining in regulation in the NFC Championship Game, Olson used it as a teaching moment.

"You learn from the first day you're a quarterback not to throw the ball back across your body," Olson remembers telling Freeman. "Yet here was a guy who's played 19 years doing it at the most critical time."

Olson, the Bucs offensive coordinator, knows this offseason is a critical time for Freeman, 21.

Among the first tasks will be improving Freeman's accuracy. As a rookie, he completed 54.6 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in nine starts.

That's a better completion percentage than fellow rookies Matthew Stafford (Lions, 53.3) and Mark Sanchez (Jets, 53.8). And Olson is quick to note that Freeman didn't have the benefit of taking many reps before the season.

That all will change now.

"He can work on making a lot of the throws," Olson said. " … There's a lot of fundamental things he can get better at. And really, it's a chance to develop a relationship with those wideouts and tight ends.

"I'm not saying he's inaccurate. If you look at what they did in college, the type of throws they make, your body is kind of programmed to make (certain throws). Now all of a sudden (he's) in the NFL and throwing 18-yard digs and has to start working on those types of throws and understand how quickly those windows close up. … There's that fine line between the timing part of it and the accuracy."

That will be the biggest task for Olson and a quarterbacks coach who the team plans to hire. General manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris are conducting interviews for the position at the Senior Bowl this week.

The Bucs ranked 28th in total offense last season, averaging 287.5 yards and 15.2 points a game. Olson was asked to take over from fired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski only 10 days before the opener.

Olson plans to scrap much of what the Bucs attempted last season, including much of the terminology. He also will return to more of a gap run blocking scheme than a zone scheme installed by Jagodzinski.

By far, the biggest adjustment will be building the offense around Freeman.

Freeman's strength is driving downfield, but the goal still will be to help him complete at least 60 percent next season.

"If you look at all the studies of playoff quarterbacks and winning quarterbacks, that's where it's at," Olson said. "We need to help him out certainly with the routes we're calling as well."

The Bucs didn't want Freeman to fill the sky with footballs. But Olson loves Freeman's poise in the pocket, internal clock and feel for the pressure.

"To me, it's his pocket presence," Olson said. "It's unbelievable. So is his composure.

"For him, he knows he can play a lot better. But what he was able to come in and be without any reps was special. It's the hardest position in sports to play. To come in and do what he did was phenomenal."

Greg Olson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers focus on Josh Freeman's development 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 11:07pm]
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