Sander Philipse is the head Pirate in charge of Bucs Nation, the SB Nation blog for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bucs Nation has watched and observed newest Viking Josh Freeman since he came in to the NFL, so it seemed like a good idea to find out what Buccaneers fans think about all that's transpired between Freeman and the Bucs, and what we can expect from him moving forward.
So, Josh Freeman is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings. How did he go from one of the best young quarterbacks in the game a couple seasons ago to being released a couple days ago?
The story can be told in complicated, Dr. Seuss-style verse, but the short version is: he regressed, and we probably overreacted to his performance in 2010. Freeman's regression started in 2011, continued through 2012 with a hiccup of about seven good games, and then finished this year. His mechanics seemed to get worse, he stopped scrambling (though that may have been due to coaches' instructions -- we're not sure), he missed more and more easy throws and threw too many interceptions. At some point, the performance just wasn't good enough.
Tell me a little about Freeman's attitude. It's been reported that he was late for team meetings, skipped the official team photo, and generally became a pain in the rear end. Has he always been a guy with that kind of edge, or did Greg Schiano bring out the worst in him, as has also been reported?
As far as we know, his attitude has always been outstanding. His teammates seem to love him, his former coaches (Greg Olson and Alex Van Pelt) rave about him and reports have consistently suggested that he was pulling overtime throughout his career. The recent reports of him being late to a few meetings appear to be out of character given what we know, though in previous seasons perhaps those reports would never have come out.
I don't know if it's accurate to say that he became a pain in the rear end, however. Missing the team meetings occurred only after he was benched, when things got out of hand quickly. Some of that may have been driven by an agent trying to get out of Tampa, but the difference can be hard to tell. I don't think his attitude will be a problem with Minnesota, in any case.
Now tell me about Freeman's game. We saw how good he can be last year, when he eviscerated a pretty good Minnesota Vikings defense on national television. Yet, after two really good seasons under Raheem Morris and OC Greg Olson, he's looked pretty mediocre since Schiano's staff came to town. Was a new system been installed, and does it not play to his skill set, or has it been something else?
We can really only say that Freeman had one good season: 2010. He was inconsistent at best and just bad in other seasons. The 2010 season probably overstated the quality of his play, as much of it depended on his scrambling on third downs. It's hard to sustain consistent play when your best plays come outside the structure of the offense, and as he tried to play more within structure his play started to fall off a little.
The biggest issue is his mechanics, though. His footwork is a mess, which leads to a lot of inaccurate throws. He has a tendency to throw off his back foot into coverage when pressured, which has led to a lot of turnovers. He also seems to be a little slow going through his reads, although that can be hard to see, of course. Whoever coaches him will have to help him fix his mechanics and his other issues -- but he does have the talent to be a very good quarterback.
In reading the stories and comments on Bucs Nation, it seems like more people are in Freeman's camp over this whole sordid affair than the team. Is that an accurate statement, and why?
I would say that they're more anti-Greg Schiano than pro-Josh Freeman, honestly. That has to do with a slew of ugly reports and senseless drama that has come out over the past months, and the fact that the Bucs are 1-9 over the past ten games. It also appears that the Bucs have at least produced some of the leaks damaging to Freeman, although it's impossible to say whether they were the source in those cases. That certainly hasn't helped Schiano's image among Buccaneers fans.
Bottom line--is this a good move for the Vikings? Can Freeman get back to his 2010 form and become a top notch quarterback, or did the Vikings sign 'just a guy' that will force them into having to pick a QB early in the 2014 draft?
Bottom line? I think he'll be an improvement over Christian Ponder, though I'm not sure he'll be better than Matt Cassel this season. What Freeman needs more than anything is a coach to work with him to fix a lot of the details in his game, and there's no time for that during the season. Coupled with the fact that he doesn't know the Vikings' system and I have a hard time seeing him as a productive player for Minnesota this year, honestly.
Thanks Sander, and good luck to both the Vikings and Buccaneers this season.