TAMPA — When Drew Brees was playing collegiate football at Purdue, his quarterbacks coach, Greg Olson, would take him to Indianapolis to watch the Colts' Peyton Manning and meet with him after games.
Manning and Brees struck up a fast friendship. Now Olson is asking the Saints quarterback to pass the knowledge to Bucs rookie QB Josh Freeman.
"I've spoken to (Brees) about the offseason and spending some time with this kid we have here (Freeman)," Olson said. "He certainly is willing to do that for me. I just think the more they can be around those types of players and share experiences in terms of preparation … I just think the more information they can gather, the more it'll be beneficial. Because he does have some special qualities. Early returns, I just like what I see."
Brees is having another spectacular year in leading the Saints to a 9-0 start, their best in club history. He's fourth in the NFL with 2,559 passing yards and has 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
If the Bucs are right about Freeman, he will face Brees twice a year for many seasons to come. But Brees credits Olson, the Bucs' offensive coordinator, for a lot of his success and is willing to help.
"Just the fact that he's in our division and I get to play against him twice a year, figure I'd give him some advice to come back and haunt me," Brees said, laughing. "I'm all for talking to young quarterbacks and … helping them along 'cause I was that guy at one point, and I'm still that guy in a lot of ways. We're all constantly looking for ways to get better. I have my mentors, the guys that I talk to quite a bit throughout the year, just trying to get new little tidbits, things that I can continue to improve on and work on and add to my routine. So, yes, I'm very receptive to that kind of thing.
"Coach Olson is awesome; he's one of my mentors, has been since my freshman year of college. I learned so much from him, the fundamentals of the game and how to play the quarterback position. Other than that, he helped me grow up and mature. … I really owe him a lot; he's a dear friend and person I have a lot of respect for. He definitely has helped me be in the position I am today as a football player as well, just because of our time together in college."
Bates and switch: You have to wonder about the future of defensive coordinator Jim Bates with the Bucs. Tampa Bay has been awful on that side of the ball, with the exception of a few players such as CB Aqib Talib, S Tanard Jackson, CB Ronde Barber and LB Barrett Ruud.
The Bucs are ranked 29th in total defense (379.2 yards per game), which would be the worst in franchise history if the season ended today, and 31st in rushing defense (167.3 yards per game), the worst ever as well.
It's hard to heap all the blame on Bates considering the Bucs wouldn't allow him to fill in holes with veteran players, as the Dolphins did with LB Jason Taylor.
"The theory behind this is you've got to see what you have," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "You've got to go out there and let guys play. If you sprinkle in a guy that's proven, like a Jason Taylor, it has nothing to do with your long-term plans. It would be simple to go out there with a short-term plan and see what you can get done this year and see how productive you can be this year. But you have an ability to look for long-term solutions. We gave an opportunity to guys like Quincy Black and Geno Hayes to go out there and be the starter, get better and progress. That's been the plan the whole time.
"The progress we've seen with Jim Bates is the production of Aqib Talib, the production of Tanard Jackson and the tackles by Barrett Ruud and how well Ronde Barber has transitioned to the new defense. You've got to get everybody better."
And the Bucs say they've found depth via raiding other teams' practice squads and the waiver wire, plucking players such as DE Tim Crowder, DT Michael Bennett and S Corey Lynch. "Really, they become extra draft picks for you this year," Morris said.