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Josh Freeman: Is He the Answer at Quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to pass against the Washington Redskins September 30, 2012 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
J.J. RodriguezContributor IIOctober 3, 2012

The question itself is simple and to the point. Is Josh Freeman the answer at quarterback for the Buccaneers?

The answer, much like the physically gifted quarterback in question, is much harder to figure out.

Freeman, in his fourth-year from Kansas State, has turned into a pariah of sorts—defended by some, loathed by others. He's too inconsistent, his detractors say. Too timid and indecisive, as well.

Which begs the age-old nature vs. nurture question: is Freeman naturally inclined to display the physical and mental shortcomings he has endured over the past 20 games, or is it the result of the poor coaching he and his teammates received from the previous regime?

Judging by how ill-prepared Raheem Morris' Buccaneers were, that isn't necessarily all that outrageous of a possibility to consider. Did their poor preparation and in-game execution become ingrained into who Freeman has become?

Cynics will dismiss the latter because they'll point out that when Freeman had his best season thus far in 2010 (25 TDs, 6 INTs), it was with the same coaching staff and (for the most part) the same teammates, too.

But consider for a moment the element of surprise the Bucs—and Freeman—seemingly had over the league in 2010. No one expected the Bucs, who finished 3-13 the year before, to play as competitively as they did. Further, no one knew much about Freeman and his tendencies, either.

Both clearly worked out in the Bucs' favor, as they won 10 games and Freeman had a career year.

Funny thing is, last season the Bucs' opponents were able to make the necessary adjustments and exploit glaring weaknesses, whereas Tampa Bay and its staff were clearly unable to do much of anything in response (i.e., adjustments, schematic alterations, etc.).

Oh, and the defense was horrendous.

As a result, Freeman was essentially left to figure it out on his own and became overwhelmed by the multitude of looks, blitzes and schemes the offense faced throughout the season. The result? The Bucs finished 4-12 and Freeman threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (16).

For all of the griping and finger-pointing that has been directed at Freeman (sometimes deservedly so), one major thing seems to elude the fans.

He is all of 24 years old.

Aaron Rodgers was almost 25 when he took over in Green Bay. Drew Brees suffered through two mediocre seasons before turning 25 and becoming the quarterback he is today. Tom Brady was 24, Eli Manning, too.

In other words, why are fans hellbent on kicking Freeman to the curb at such a young age? If anything, his three years of starting experience gives him a learning curve over the QBs just mentioned.

Does that mean I think Freeman is destined for greatness like the others? Not necessarily. But it does mean I believe he is far from a finished product and shouldn't be discarded like yesterday's trash.

Because remember, it wasn't too long ago we had Rob Johnson, Brian Griese and Chris Simms under center.

Freeman doesn't look so bad after all, does he?

 

Stay up-to-date on the latest Bucs news and more by following J.J. on Twitter. You can also "like" him on Facebook or drop him a line at BRJJRodriguez@gmail.com

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