Buc fans were sure the organization would go with a defensive player to help rebuild a defense that for so long had been a staple in Tampa but let them down last season.
The Bucs started 9-3 last season and seemed headed for a run at a playoff position but dropped it’s last four to finish 9-7 .and out of the playoff picture. It also led to the firing of Head Coach John Gruden.
Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris was elevated to replace Gruden and bring a new direction and new attitude to the organization.
Soon gone were longtime linebacker and 11 time Pro-Bowler Derrick Brooks as well as linebacker Kato June. The team then traded for Browns Tight End Kellen Winslow and signed free agent QB Byron Leftwich and former Giants running back Derrick Ward. It all seemed to lead to a defensive player to be the pick. But, Freeman it was and the future of the Bucs was clear.
Freeman becomes the first QB selected in round one by the Bucs since 1994 when they drafted Trent Dilfer.
Morris who at 32 becomes the youngest Head Coach in the NFL is no stranger to Freeman. He was the defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006 when Freeman was a freshman.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of talent around us but every time he’d walk on the field you felt you had a chance to win with this guy leading you.” Morris said.
Freeman is big at 6-6 248 lbs and has the big arm to go with it. He fits the bill as the prototypical NFL QB. He now becomes the fifth QB on the roster along with Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and 2008 draftee Josh Johnson.
So the question becomes how soon does Freeman step in and if not now or not soon then was this pick a reach considering next years draft also brings some potentially high QB choices in Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy.
Freeman himself believes he deserves a shot and also believes he is as good as the two quarterbacks drafted ahead of him (number one overall pick Mathew Stafford to the Lions and USC’s Mark Sanchez to the Jets).
“I feel like I’m the better Quarterback but they’re getting all the hype” he said.
“They’re good quarterbacks; I’m not taking anything away from them. If I had a pick, I’d take myself…..I have the rest of my career to prove to everybody that I’m the best guy. And I’m looking to do everything within my power to make that so.”
It took Freeman less than a month into his freshman year to win the job at Kansas State and the Bucs hope he can continue along that path although there will be plenty of competition in camp and no guarantees. Most experts feel it will be a few years before the raw Freeman develops into a number one quarterback in the NFL.
“We all know you can’t win in this league without a quarterback. You just can’t do it.” Morris said.
Time will tell if the decision to draft Josh Freeman proves Morris and new general manager Mark Dominik right. Their futures depend on it.