How Josh Freeman Went from Promising Rookie to Potential Trade Option

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How Josh Freeman Went from Promising Rookie to Potential Trade Option
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

There might not be too many stranger situations in the NFL right now than the relationship between quarterback Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and head coach Greg Schiano.

In the last week, Freeman has been firmly in the epicenter of controversy.

He was passed over for captain of the Bucsa position he’d held for the four years prior. There was a rumor reported by Pro Football Talk that Schiano rigged the vote by removing a number of Freeman’s votes.

There was also a rumor from CBSSports.com suggesting that Freeman was so unhappy he would ask the team to trade him before the trade deadline this season.

Let’s not forget that The Tampa Tribune broke the news that Freeman missed the team photo while this vote-rigging drama was unfolding.

Oh, by the way, the quarterback threw a pick and was only able to muster a 56.1 quarterback rating against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

How did Freeman go from first-round pick in 2009 to possibly the first man out the door via trade in 2013?

Freeman was taken with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft and waited seven games behind Josh Johnson before taking over as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback.

The Bucs used a bye week prior to Week 9 to get Freeman ready and the rookie passer threw three touchdown passes against the Green Bay Packers to lead the Bucs to a win in his first start.

Tampa Bay won just two more games out of the next eight and Freeman threw 17 interceptions to only seven touchdown passes after his debut. Nevertheless, Freeman was still the future for the Bucs under center.

The 2010 season was Freeman’s best statistically, but possibly the worst for his future as a starting quarterback.

Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and had just six interceptions while accumulating 3,451 yards through the air. Freeman was now an NFL quarterback on the scene that could post near-elite-level numbers.

In 2011, his numbers took a meteoric nosedive. Freeman threw 16 touchdown passes to 22 interceptions.

Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune noted that, through five games, Freeman had already thrown as many interceptions as he did the entire year prior. The quarterback and the team wondered if he was too confident after his success in 2010.

It really is a fine line. You've got this confidence now, because you had a good season and a good offseason and because you study your opponent and you know what you're going to see.

But then, whether it's not making the throw or getting a little too heated up or whatever it might be, you try to force some things and you wind up having these picks. I just have to find a way to bounce back from it.

Freeman seemed to be overly confident in his ability to sneak passes into sticky situations. While the same passes connected in 2010, they were picked off in 2011.

Freeman set out to improve in the 2012 season. He needed to find a way to keep his confidence levels high but not be overconfident. The results were mixed and his play has been wildly inconsistent ever since.

Schiano, the new head coach in 2012, limited Freeman’s throwing in the first three weeks of the season. Freeman only threw the ball 41 times through three games to start the season, as Schiano utilized his rookie running back Doug Martin.

When Freeman was given the opportunity to throw more in Week 4, he rose to the task. This ultimately led the Buccaneers to adjust the offensive scheme to focus on Freeman’s arm during the bye week.

Over the next six weeks, the Buccaneers won five games and Freeman threw 16 touchdown passes to only three interceptions. Freeman looked like the quarterback the Bucs saw in 2010, and the team was winning.

But Freeman and the Buccaneers faltered over the final six games of the season. The Bucs lost five of their final six games and Freeman tossed 10 picks to only six touchdown passes.

Josh Freeman's 2012 Splits
Comp-Att Yards TD INT W-L
Games 1-4 65-119 (54.6%) 790 5 4 1-3
Games 5-10 115-200 (57.5%) 1,715 16 3 5-1
Games 11-16 126-239 (52.7%) 1,560 6 10 1-5

Yahoo!

The 2012 campaign was the tale of three different Freemans under center. He went from underutilized to elite to expendable.

Prior to the 2013 NFL draft, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik chose not to extend Freeman’s contract even though he was entering the final year of his rookie deal. In addition to that no-confidence vote, the Bucs drafted quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round.

Glennon didn’t have the type of training camp and preseason to let the Bucs know he was ready to start in the NFL, but the writing seems to be on the wall.

Glennon is the quarterback of the future for Tampa Bay.

An ESPN.com report claimed Freeman didn’t believe Schiano rigged the captaincy vote. Meanwhile, a tweet from Pewter Report claimed Freeman did not and would not ask for a trade.

In Schiano’s postgame press conference on Sunday, he vowed to get the communication breakdowns that have been going on with the team fixed (via Buccaneers.com):

It’s very disappointing, and, again, it falls on me. It’s my job to make sure that our staff and our players understand those procedural things, and I’m not getting it done. I’m going to get it done, and we will get it done. I’ll get my staff, and we’ll all get it fixed, and the players - we’ll get it fixed. This is a good football team. We’ll be back.

The damage seems to have already been done in the relationship between Freeman and the Buccaneers.

Thus far in 2013, he's thrown two picks, two touchdowns and has a 45.3 completion percentage. If he can’t find a way to improve on his numbers, he’ll be looking for work elsewhere in 2014.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.

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