What is the biggest difference between the Josh Freeman of last year and the Josh Freeman of this year?
Well, that's the big question. I watched him last season, when he was terrific. I watched the tape this season of the Indianapolis game when he was (25-for-39) and the Atlanta game when he looked good. Then you see him struggle like he has recently. The first thing I would ask is: Is he okay physically? Is he injured? I'm not privy to that information, but we really don't know how healthy he is. The other thing I look at is the players around him. For example, (tackle) Donald Penn had a rough day (Sunday), and things like that affect how Josh Freeman plays.
Are you surprised where the Bucs are this season, or did you think they overachieved last season?
I was surprised they had as good of a record as they did a season ago. I was surprised by 10-6. And I said coming into this season that they might be a better football team but actually have a worse record. They are in a tough division. When I look back at this season, they had that awful loss against San Francisco. They lose to a team like New Orleans. Those are good teams. What troubles me is the last two weeks, losing to Jacksonville and Carolina badly. (Sunday) was not good at all. You have a team that's reeling. You jump out to a 14-point lead and you need to bury that team. Instead, you get run over and lose that bad? Not good.
What is your opinion of the job done by coach Raheem Morris?
Well, he was 10-6 a year ago. They got off to a good start this year, and there was a lot of excitement. But this (seven-game) losing streak is troubling. The reality in this league is that you have to produce. It's about results. There still is a lot to play for this season.
This Bucs season, obviously, is gone. What are you interested in seeing from this team in the last three games? What are you looking for Saturday night?
Well, I'm looking still to see if guys are improving, if they're getting better. I'm looking for efficiency. They have to cut down on turnovers. They turned the ball over seven times last week. They have to cut down on penalties. So No. 1, I'm looking for them to take care of the football. And No. 2, fewer penalties. Those two things — turnovers and penalties — those are coach killers.
On another NFL topic, what are your thoughts on Tim Tebow?
I say right now that we should all just sit back and enjoy it. It's an amazing story. The thing I love about it is that he is changing the way defenses have to play. He is forcing NFL defenses and defensive coordinators to prepare for something that they're not used to. That's great.
Finally, you call Notre Dame games for NBC. Your thoughts on former Irish coach and Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis leaving Gainesville for the Kansas job?
That move caught me flat-footed. I bought into Charlie wanting to be in Gainesville with his family. I thought what he'd like about Florida is that he could work on offensive schemes, which he is very good at doing, and just go out and recruit a little locally. Now he has to do a lot of recruiting, and it's a very difficult job. I wasn't sure Charlie wanted to spend so much of his time trying to get 18-year-olds to come play for him, so I'm a little surprised. It's not an easy job.
Tom Jones' two cents
Mike Mayock is known as having one of the sharpest football minds in broadcasting. That's understandable considering he grew up the son of a high school coach, played defensive back collegiately at Boston College and in the NFL with the Giants, and now spends much of his time poring over game film. He has worked as an analyst on NBC's coverage of Notre Dame for the past two seasons and is in his first season as a game analyst for the NFL Network. Mayock will be at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday for the Bucs-Cowboys game. On Wednesday he spent a few moments by phone with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones to talk about what's wrong with Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, Bucs coach Raheem Morris' future and what he thinks about Broncos (and former Florida) quarterback Tim Tebow.