As you've seen or heard by now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released their embattled quarterback, Josh Freeman, after a crazy sequence of events involving benchings, "unauthorized interviews," and the NFL's Substance Abuse program. Upon his release, the Minnesota Vikings were one of the teams that were immediately thought of as a destination for him. Pro Football Talk even went as far as to say this:
This is the team, as we hear it, Freeman most wants to play for. But coach Leslie Frazier and G.M. Rick Spielman seem to be committed to who they have, whether it's Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel. Unless and until Spielman says the Vikings have "no intent" to sign Freeman, consider him a non-option.
Now, Arif has put together a very nice analysis that says that the Vikings should, indeed, be in the Josh Freeman business. And, as with most of Arif's analysis, it's pretty hard to disagree with. But over on the Twitter, Eric put something out there that also makes a pretty good point, I think.
"Give Freeman a shot, he has potential" is an awful argument if you're already out on Ponder. Freeman's 5th yr in NFL, only Ponder's 3rd.— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) October 3, 2013
I can certainly appreciate this perspective on things, too. If people want to have Christian Ponder tarred and feathered for being up-and-down for 29 National Football League starts, then why are we going gaga over a guy that's been up-and-down for 59 National Football League starts?
Freeman, like Ponder, took over for his team in the seventh game of his rookie season. He's basically, at this point, the football equivalent of Bret Saberhagen. Early in his career with the Kansas City Royals, Saberhagen was pretty much untouchable. . .every other year.
In 1984, as a rookie, he was about average.
In 1985, he won the American League Cy Young Award.
In 1986, he had a losing record.
In 1987, he went 18-10.
In 1988, he had a losing record.
In 1989, he won the A.L. Cy Young Award again.
In 1990, he had a losing record.
Freeman has followed a similar line to this point. After having it a bit rough as a rookie (10 touchdown passes to 18 interceptions), he came back with a brilliant sophomore campaign, throwing 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions with a quarterback rating of 95.9.
In his third season, he again had more interceptions than touchdown passes, with only Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing more interceptions than Freeman's 22 (and Fitzpatrick only beat him by one in that category).
He had a solid year in 2012, his first season under new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, with 27 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions.
And he got off to a rough start in 2013, completing less than 50% of his passes in Tampa's first three games before the whole thing went off the rails.
Now, it's possible that Freeman just needs the proverbial "change of scenery" or what have you. On the other hand, it's kind of like the girl who, despite the warnings, goes out with the guy that's cheated on all of his other girlfriends because, in her mind, she's convinced that she's the one that can change him. Maybe Josh Freeman is just maddeningly inconsistent and that's what he's going to be regardless of which uniform he's wearing.
The other part of this is when Freeman is actually going to play. If the Vikings bring Josh Freeman in sometime in the very near future, he's not playing this year barring a rash of injuries. He's not going to have nearly enough time to absorb the playbook in a manner that would allow him to run the offense properly. Freeman would be a signing almost exclusively for the long-term. The issue with that comes from the potential long-term stability of the Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff.
The Vikings are currently 1-3 and sporting one of the worst defenses in the league under a defensive-minded head coach in Leslie Frazier. If this team doesn't go through a pretty significant turnaround over the remainder of the season, there's a chance that Frazier and company aren't going to be back on the Minnesota sidelines for 2014. And if the Vikings have to hire a new coaching staff, what's (generally) one of the first things an NFL coach wants when he takes over a football team?
That's right. . .he wants "his guy" at quarterback. And if the Minnesota Vikings are bad enough in 2013 to cost Leslie Frazier his job, and with the college quarterback class of 2014 looking to be a very strong one at this point, Freeman could again find himself in a situation that he has no desire to be in. At best, he'd be viewed as a caretaker type of quarterback that would be expected to bring the new kid along. At worst, he'd be relegated to backup duty again when he clearly thinks he has the ability to start in the National Football League.
I've been on record as an ardent supporter of Christian Ponder for basically his entire tenure as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. And, again, I'm still not convinced that he's the terrible, awful, horrible quarterback that so many already seem to be convinced that he is. With that said, I feel that if this was the off-season and Freeman had a chance to get his hands on the playbook and there were an open competition between Freeman and Ponder or Freeman and Matt Cassel (or all three of them), Freeman would almost undoubtedly win.
But that isn't the situation this team currently finds itself in. And if Josh Freeman is the answer for the Minnesota Vikings at all, he certainly isn't the answer for 2013. If I were more convinced of the fate of Leslie Frazier and his staff at this point, I would be firmly behind the team signing Freeman, and I still don't think I'd totally hate it if that's the direction they decided to go. But it's not like baseball where a team can sign a shortstop or a left fielder and immediately plug them into the lineup to get results. Freeman would almost certainly be the fourth quarterback on the depth chart all season long and inactive every week in the hopes of getting him prepared for 2014. . .if the person that's coaching the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, be it Leslie Frazier or someone else, sees him as "the guy."
Will the Vikings sign Josh Freeman? Should they sign Josh Freeman? What do you think?