Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman connected on 19 of his 41 passing attempts Sunday against the New England Patriots. Sadly, that 46.3 percent completion rate was the fifth-year quarterback’s second-most accurate day of the season thus far.
The former first-round pick from Kansas State landed 48.4 percent of his passes in Week 1, 40.9 percent in Week 2 and has only thrown two touchdown passes with three interceptions this season. His three-week total of 45.7 percent ranks Freeman dead last in the NFL at No. 33 in completion percentage.
Yes, the Cleveland Browns have two quarterbacks with a higher completion percentage than Freeman.
Any leeway Freeman had entering the season after throwing 27 touchdown passes last year and churning out 4,065 yards through the air is now just about gone. He entered the season without a contract extension to his rookie deal, looking to prove to the Buccaneers they made a mistake by not securing him to a long-term deal.
It’s possible the Buccaneers are now scrambling to decide just how long they have to keep Freeman in his starting role, much less continue to offer him a roster spot.
Believe it or not Freeman had an incredible amount of leverage prior to the season. Even though the Buccaneers took a wait-and-see approach in regard to offering him a new contract (Freeman’s rookie contract ends after the 2013 season) and drafted North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon in the third round of the 2013 draft in April, all Freeman had to do is excel under center and good things would happen.
Freeman’s excelled in the past.
If Freeman played the 2013 season like he did the 2010 season where he tossed 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions or the six-week portion of last season from Week 5 to Week 10 where he threw for 1,715 yards and connected on 16 touchdown passes and only three picks, Freeman could have called the shots.
With that kind of success in 2013 Freeman would have landed a long-term deal with Tampa Bay, or absolutely gotten paid on the open market as a free agent.
Instead, Freeman has continually missed his receivers, failed to evade the pass rush as if his feet were covered in still-drying concrete shoes and instead of showing his usual maddening, roller coaster-like up-and-down strings of successes and letdowns, has just utterly failed through three games of 2013.
Freeman’s receivers haven’t been terribly kind to him through three games. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Tampa Bay receivers have dropped 10 catchable balls already. Give Freeman those 10 completions and that alone would boost him to a 56.4 percent completion rate. He’d then be ranked 27th in the league, and ahead of both Cleveland passers.
If only success in the NFL were based on staying just ahead of both Brian Hoyer (55.6 percent) and Brandon Weeden (54.7 percent).
It’s not, and Freeman has made more than his fair share of miscues to get him into this mess. Twice in the second half of the New England game, Tampa Bay drives ended because of errant throws from Freeman. The Buccaneers only had five drives in the final two quarters Sunday, 40 percent were killed in some part by Freeman’s inaccuracy.
In the first half Freeman made it through his first four drives without any mistakes. In fact, he looked good while his receivers dropped passes to hurt the team. But with 16 seconds left before halftime Freeman underthrew a pass and Patriots corner Aqib Talib jumped the route and picked off the pass.
It’s possible that Freeman’s confidence waned while he sat in the locker room between halves thinking about the dropped passes and his interception, because he was erratic in the final 30 minutes of the game.
In the first drive of the second half Freeman grossly missed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree on third down to force a punt.
In the fourth drive of the half, midway through the fourth quarter, Freeman tried to lead running back Doug Martin as he changed direction on a route to get a first down.
Freeman led his running back way too much and the drive went nowhere.
Freeman’s been missing a lot in 2013, and missing his mark by a huge margin. It’s these egregious misses that have the Tampa call-in sports radio masses asking for Freeman to be benched. Sports Radio 98.7 The Fan in Tampa even released a “Bye, Bye Bucs QB #5” song.
Former Buc Earnest Graham went to Twitter Sunday and wondered aloud about Freeman’s job security.
Head coach Greg Schiano, in his postgame press conference, was asked if Freeman still gave this Buccaneers team the best chance to win and whether there was a time in New England when Schiano considered benching Freeman.
“He does, and no there wasn’t,” replied Schiano tersely.
While that was the only answer Schiano should have given after the game, how long it remains the truth is anyone’s guess. If Freeman can’t bring his completion percent up above 50 percent, the Bucs may have no choice but to bench their starting quarterback for the rookie Glennon.
That brings another wrinkle into this equation. Even if Tampa Bay wants to remove Freeman from his starting job, Glennon might not be ready. JoeBucsFan lists six reasons why Glennon isn’t ready to play yet, and they are all sound thoughts.
So what should the Buccaneers do?
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik and Schiano have a huge decision to make, and don’t think for one second that, with the team’s Week 5 bye approaching fast, the topic hasn’t or won’t be broached.
The simple fact is Freeman hasn’t given the team any reason to lengthen his leash to keep his role as starting quarterback. Freeman’s job security right now might very well be based on the fact that Glennon isn’t ready to start, not that Freeman deserves to.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.