Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/19/14

The state of Florida has fallen on some hard times when it comes to football. While college teams in the state have had a successful decade, its three professional teams haven’t had the best few seasons. The Jaguars are an unwatchable mess, the Dolphins haven’t had an elite leader for a very long time now, and the Buccaneers’ once godly defense has fallen to mortal levels. However, fans in Tampa are getting excited about a team that went 10-6 just two years ago. They had a spectacular draft last season, they added stud Darelle Revis to a struggling secondary, and now have two promising receivers locked up for the future. Everything seems to be in place for a successful season and future, but there is one big question at the quarterback position. 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Josh Freeman made headlines when he was drafted out of Kansas State by the Bucs in the 2009 NFL Draft. Expectations were high and Freeman delivered in his first game in the ‘creamsicle’ uniforms against the Green Bay Packers. The Bucs were 0-7 entering that game and Freeman shocked the Packers with 205 passing yards and his first win as a starter. The Bucs would go on to finish that year at 3-13, the worst record in the NFC south. The next year the Bucs would go 10-6 and just miss the playoffs due to tiebreakers. Freeman was now a star in Tampa and garnered a reputation for fourth quarter comebacks. 2010 was a good year for Freeman with 3,451 yards and 25 TDs. His name started appearing on rising quarterback charts and the Buccaneers were quickly gaining momentum for the 2011 season. Unfortunately for Freeman and the rest of Tampa Bay, 2011 was a disaster that ended in a 4-12 record, a 10-game losing streak, and Raheem Morris’ tenure as head coach was finished. Even though Freeman threw for more yards he had only 16 TDs and his interception count jumped to 22. Suddenly, the Buccaneers’ ship had leaks all over the place and Freeman was handed a bucket. Freeman’s game first came under fire after throwing four interceptions in a dismal performance at Wembley Stadium against the Bears. It was the game that started the 10-game slide and led to Morris’ termination. After that Bears game the Buccaneers’ quarterback would have four more games with multiple interceptions. In three of those games Freeman would throw more interceptions than touchdowns (against Green Bay Freeman’s TD-interception ratio was 2-2). Freeman’s performance was also influenced by the offensive line, in 2011’s losses Freeman was sacked 25 times, in wins he was only sacked four, granted that excuse could be made for any quarterback. After Greg Schiano took over in the 2011 offseason it appeared the Buccaneers could maybe reach the level of play in 2012 that got them to 10-6 only two seasons ago. A 7-9 record helped restore some faith to the fans in 2012. Freeman had 27 TDs and 17 interceptions for a positive ratio and threw for a personal best 4,065 yards. However, the Bucs once again got off to a solid 6-4 record and then lost their next five in a row. In those five losses Freeman threw nine interceptions and only five TDs. The critics were at it again and people have started to wonder if Josh really has what it takes. Freeman’s biggest problem is his poor decision making. In high-pressure situations he can be prone to interceptions that do way more damage to the team than just turn the ball over. In a game against the Giants in week two of 2012, the Bucs had the game in their grasp with a 27-16 lead going into the fourth quarter. However, Freeman and his offense would do nothing with the ball three times allowing the Giants to climb back in it (Freeman also threw an interception right before the third quarter ended giving the Giants a field goal early in the fourth). Freeman developed a pattern of throwing catchable balls when under pressure in the pocket, the only problem was they were catchable by the defense as well. 12 of his TDs were when the offense was in the shotgun formation. He also threw nine interceptions in his own territory causing a short field for the defense to work with. Another issue that Freeman needs to control is his dependence on the deep ball. Freeman has great options with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, who can both be considered deep-threats, but the Bucs best offensive option is in the backfield. With Doug Martin as effective as he is, Freeman does not have to depend on the deep ball to get points on the board. One of his greatest improvements can come from toning it down, not gambling, and focusing on moving the sticks. By nature Freeman is not a game manager, but maybe a movement towards that style will help him become even more of a threat. Although that would limit him from slinging over 4,000 yards, it would certainly help with his consistency and would limit his interceptions. Josh Freeman needs a good if not fantastic 2013 to secure his future with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is the last year of his contract and he could make a handsome penny if he gets the Bucs back to the Promise Land. Since 2007, the Buccaneers have watched the playoffs from the couch but if Freeman can get them back he will be a hero in Tampa and the Glazers will have to pay him. Time will tell if Freeman is the wind in the Buccaneers’ sails or the anchor dragging them to the bottom. -Reynolds

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