Rich Gannon Concerned About Josh FreemanFebruary 12th, 2013
Bucs fans have an awful thing in common with one, woebegone franchise, the Lions. Like the Bucs, the Lions are the only other NFC team that has gone over a decade without a playoff win. The last time the Bucs won a playoff game was in the Super Bowl.
Some Bucs fans have, understandably, reached their ceiling of frustration. A caller who glossed himself as “Hollywood,” a rabid Bucs fan, called “The Blitz,” co-hosted by former Super Bowl quarterback Rich Gannon and popular sports radio personality Adam Schein, heard exclusively on SiriusXM NFL Radio, and had a long rant about Bucs embattled quarterback Josh Freeman yesterday.
Freeman’s inconsistency, the caller said, is holding the Bucs back from postseason success, and the caller all but gave the Bucs an ultimatum for his loyalty, saying another fruitless season in pursuit of the playoffs in 2013 is unacceptable.
“Hollywood:” I always hear the excuses. He has had new coaches, new coordinators, yada, yada, yada. We are in a win-now league. There are too many young kids coming out that have proven they can start and play and take their teams to the next level. I am not saying that my quarterback doesn’t have that ability but the last two seasons, he has shown me he has the ability to do it at times but he has also shown me the ability to throw way, way, way, way, way too many interceptions to touchdown ratios for me. Rich, my question is to you is, who is out there in free agency where Greg Schiano can bring somebody in to challenge Josh for the job? Because, I don’t want this kid [Freeman] to come into the preseason thinking that you know, it is his ship to row. He doesn’t have anything to compete for because he is the only one on the team that has the capability to do what he does. I am not a big believer in our backups. I want to see Greg [Schiano] and Mark Dominik [find a quarterback] in the draft, maybe there is somebody in the third or fourth round that can come in and challenge Josh or maybe there is somebody out there like Matt Moore or Kyle Orton? There is a free agent out there somewhere that has experience that can come in and compete with for that job. I am not trying to throw my quarterback under the bus, but at the same time, as a fan, I cannot sit there another year and go through this again. I just really can’t.
Rich Gannon: I think there is some genuine concern from Mark Dominik and certainly from Greg Schiano. You heard that at the end of the year. It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his quarterback, Josh Freeman. You look at the Buccaneers, they got off to a sluggish start, they lost three of their first four then they got on a roll and started playing some really good football in October and in the beginning of November and then they fizzled. They lost five of their last six. People thought it was their schedule or their rookie head coach who may be working these NFL guys like college guys and just wore them down at the end of the year. But I also look at Josh Freeman’s production late in the year and it wasn’t great. He didn’t play his best football when it mattered the most and that is a big reason why the Buccaneers finished 7-9. You look at his numbers this year and the thing that concerns me and continues to concern me about Freeman is his decision making and his completion percentage under 55 percent. You cannot survive in this league when you are under 55 percent. Really, when you are under 60 percent anymore it is hard. The interceptions concern me a little bit. The sacks, the decision-making. You look at what the Buccaneers did this year; it wasn’t like they didn’t help him. They went out and got him Vincent Jackson, they went out and got Dallas Clark, they went out and got Doug Martin and yet [Freeman’s] production really fell off. That is a huge concern to Greg Schiano.
Adam Schein: I think you summed it up brilliantly, Rich. I think Hollywood summed it up brilliantly. Here’s is what I think is damning from a Bucs perspective: I don’t think Greg Schiano has any idea what he has at the quarterback position. You know, I think, obviously, Mark Dominik has seen much more of Josh Freeman. They have seen moments where he has been brilliant in games, brilliant in the fourth quarter. The last season with Raheem Morris was awful. A mixed bag this past year. I guess if you going to put it to the ultimate test of, “Do you think you can get to the playoffs and advance with Josh Freeman?” Rich, I would say, “No.” That is my current answer to the question. No. I think you are always going to be intoxicated by those moments, intoxicated by the talent. There have been some questions about his work ethic. I am fascinated to see if the Buccaneers are in the quarterback business this season.
Gannon: (deep sigh) I think you are always looking. I don’t care who you are. The Green Bay Packers are a great example. They have the best quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers and I can tell you right now that Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements and the staff are scouring this draft to find out if there is a quarterback out there that could fit in their system. I don’t know how you cannot do that. When you look at what Seattle did last year with Russell Wilson. I mean, you are talking about a third round draft pick. I mean, who wouldn’t take a Russell Wilson? If you are the Dallas Cowboys or you are the New England Patriots. I mean you have to do your due diligence; you have to do your research on these young players. This guy was a steal, a diamond in the rough. You have to continue to look. I will say this about the Buccaneers: Injuries along the offensive line last year were devastating. Davin Joseph goes on injured reserve. Carl Nicks goes on injured reserve. Jeremy Trueblood goes on injured reserve. They were decimated along the offensive line and it hurt them with the protection scheme. Nonetheless, you look at the quarterback situation with Josh Freeman, and you just fall in love with the size, his arm, his mobility. Yet he always seems to leave you wanting more. And that is the problem now with Josh Freeman.
Joe thinks Gannon, who also works as a game analyst for CBS, hit a bulls-eye. The Bucs always talked about getting Freeman toys. How many other quarterbacks have as many toys as Freeman does? Shoot, you could argue Freeman has as many if not more toys to play with than Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
And there are times when Freeman throws a pass, like he did for touchdowns at Carolina and at Atlanta, when he was rushed, beautifully dodging traffic with his feet all the while looking downfield and rifling a ball for a touchdown looking just like Ben Roethlisberger at his peak.
Then there are times, ugh, Joe doesn’t want to type it, the one-hoppers to running backs, missing guys wide open in the end zone by throwing the ball to another zip code. As Gannon pointed out, when the Bucs were in a driver’s seat for a playoff run, in the most important games of the season in December, Freeman vanished. Not good.
And no, Joe is not a Freeman hater. Joe went on record in December stating this is the perfect time for Dominik to sign Freeman to an incentive-laded extension (of course, Freeman’s camp would never go for it).
Now Gannon referenced again, Freeman’s work ethic. Joe doesn’t get it. No one — and Joe sincerely means — no one at One Buc Palace has ever said anything negative about Freeman’s work ethic. Not a suit, not a coach, not a player. No one. In fact, the Bucs family routinely lauds Freeman for being among the first to One Buc Palace and the last to leave. Joe vividly remembers after one weekday practice in the locker room, Mike Williams and Tiquan Underwood having passionate speeches in defense of Freeman and his work ethic.
Shoot, Joe heard from a father of a local soccer player that Freeman called the soccer player’s former high school coach (a team in Tampa) and wanted to work out with the soccer team last spring and summer so he could improve his footwork and drop some pounds at the same time. Freeman was a fixture at the soccer workouts, which included the aforementioned source.
Does that sound like a slacker? Does that sound like someone who doesn’t have a work ethic? This was in addition to working out at One Buc Palace. Yet it seems, beginning with Boomer Esiason, national NFL media types have this narrative that Freeman doesn’t have a solid work ethic. Joe isn’t sure why this persists.
It is starting to smell like a former Bucs coach is planting these stories in a desperate effort save grace.
With a healthy if not beefed up offensive line (new right tackle?), surely an improved secondary, and another year working with Mike Sullivan, the table is set for Freeman to lead the Bucs to the postseason in 2013, barring major injuries.
The 2013 season will tell Joe a lot about Freeman’s future in Tampa Bay.
Frankly, Joe doesn’t see him going anywhere.