Why Josh Freeman Won't (and Shouldn't) See the Field in 2013

Caption Contest: Winner With Most Rec's Gets the Coveted Burger King Crown - Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The Vikings probably won't start Josh Freeman for the rest of the year, and there are a couple of good reasons why they shouldn't either.

Did my headline grab your attention?  Good!  I know there is a pretty sizable portion of the Minnesota Vikings fan base that is ready and waiting to see Josh Freeman take the field at some point during this 2013 season.  But I am one fan that doesn't believe he actually will take the field again in 2013, and after giving it further thought I don't think he should even be given the chance either.

I wrote a piece several weeks back when the Vikings first acquired Josh Freeman that showed he would likely be a minor upgrade over Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, in that his potential ceiling has proven to be higher than either of those two quarterbacks.  But I also showed that his potential downside is pretty much equally bad, if not worse and that he has proven himself to be an inconsistent quarterback regardless of any potential upside.  And while he clearly had not learned the playbook well enough during the Monday Night game against the Giants and was rushed in as a starter after only 2 weeks with the team, all excuses aside the performance was abysmal.  It left many of us seriously questioning why the coaching staff would have allowed Freeman to start the game.  And this leads me to my first point.

The NFL Network aired a recent interview with Ian Rappaport last Friday where they discussed Freeman and the Vikings plans.  He said:

Talking to Vikings people they understand it was a mistake to play him as early as they did, just because he wasn't ready, he didn't know the playbook and that led to really a difficult performance that landed him as the number three quarterback.  But the other thing I hear from my Vikings sources is that even though he cost $2 Million they do not view it as a mistake to acquire him, because if it lit a fire under Christian Ponder, then it was worth it.  Remember, he had his best game as a Pro last night and they think that helped a lot.

This makes a lot of sense to me and might partially explain why they rushed to start him when he wasn't ready.  And to borrow a sports term from the boxing world, perhaps Freeman was nothing more than a tomato can for our quarterback carousel (who the Vikings would clearly like to see land permanently on their #1 draft pick Christian Ponder).  Freeman is a guy whose skills appear to be diminishing, but by starting him and watching him fail, it could lead Ponder to become more motivated, succeed and ultimately win the QB Carousel competition (so to speak).

But an even more sinister point, and perhaps an even better reason that we might not see Freeman the rest of the season has to do with the future of the QB position in Minnesota.  Freeman is a free agent at the end of the year and is free to sign with the highest bidder.  There are many teams that would love to have Freeman as a backup, and perhaps even a few that might like to see him as a starter (if Spielman is to be believed when he said there were many suitors for Freeman in free agency).  But his value to any team (and therefore his potential salary in 2014 and beyond) will be very closely tied to whatever stats and skills he's shown on the field most recently.  And his 2012 and 2013 stats thus far are pretty average to abysmal:

Josh Freeman

Att.

Comp.

Comp. %

Yards

Yds/Att

TDs

INTs

Rating

2013 Season

147

63

0.429

761

5.18

2

4

52.6

2012 Season

558

306

0.548

4,065

7.3

27

17

81.6

In other words, the Minnesota Vikings don't need Freeman to play this season to adequately judge his potential.  In fact, Rick Spielman even said as much a few weeks back.  He said:

On whether he can determine if Freeman is a `franchise quarterback' if he sits the rest of the year:

"I believe you can because they're with him in meetings. They're with him at walkthroughs. We're out there watching him at practice. They're watching his work ethic. They're watching him interact with the trainers. All the unique things that you couldn't do, let's say, if you waited until the end of the season and then tried to go out and sign a quarterback or any other position. This was just a great chance, whether he played or not, that you would have a much better idea of what a Josh Freeman was or whoever that is by the end of the season just by him being in your building and being around that player for 12 weeks."

In other words, the Vikings are in a prime position to evaluate Freeman better than anyone not named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they don't have to share that knowledge with the rest of the NFL.  And if they believe Freeman has a future in Minnesota as the quarterback, why would you throw him out on the field during a 2-7 season that is all but lost?  What benefit would there be to doing that?  Sure, I suppose you could see how he responds in a real game, but if Freeman actually does well wouldn't that just raise his value at the end of the year?  Wouldn't the Vikings just have to end up paying Freeman with a larger contract if they start him this year and he actually does well?

At this point, they could sit on Freeman for the remainder of the year and start Ponder and Cassel from here on out and likely be able to sign Freeman on the cheap at the end of the year.  They could have an old-fashioned QB competition in training camp between Ponder, Freeman and a 2014 draft pick, but not have to commit much money to Freeman since his most recent play in the NFL has pretty much been a train wreck.

All that said, Freeman certainly thinks he's ready for the job.  While that may be the case, Cassel has been the de-facto #2 quarterback the past 2 games, and therefore could continue to be the primary backup going forward.  Besides, Ponder appears to be making progress with his injury and believes he will play this Sunday against the Seahawks, but you never know.  It could still come down to a Cassel vs Freeman decision.  And let's not forget that Ponder actually looked really good Thursday night against a poor Redskins defense, probably his best game as a Pro.  If Ponder can play, the Seahawks would be a pretty good test to see if the signing of Freeman really has lit a fire under him or not.  Perhaps the Freeman Tomato Can ruse could really work?

P.S. Don't forget to participate in the caption contest!  We haven't had one of those in awhile...comment with the most recs gets the coveted Burger King Crown, which at this point is a soiled, oily, soggy mess since it barely survived the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  I had to tape it back together with Duck Tape.

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