Josh Freeman And Miscommunication

December 20th, 2012

Even the biggest fans of Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman must admit the fourth-year Bucs signal-caller has had a lousy last four weeks.

Freeman went from average (with a couple of major misses) to shaky to bad to wretched in consecutive games.

Bucs fans, seeing younger quarterbacks on other teams drafted in later rounds having more recent success than Freeman, have grown impatient by the week and have reached full throat in their anger after Freeman’s four-interception game to one of the NFL’s worst defenses, the Saints last Sunday.

Each week, Freeman explained some of his misses and interceptions were “miscommucications.” This just added to the fire fans who wondered aloud how, through 15 weeks of an NFL season, the quarterback cannot be in synch with his receivers.

In ways, Freeman’s use of the term “miscommunication” seemed to infer to some that he was pointing fingers at his teammates and blaming others for the errors.

Joe had a chance to ask Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan Wednesday to explain how there can be so much miscommunication with the end of the season just 11 days away.

“Whether it is an incompletion or an interception, there are a wide variety of reasons why [miscommunicatoin] can come into play. It could be a breakdown in protection. It could be a poor execution of a route. It could be a poor throw. Not to get into any of the specifics, there is always a reason. I think with a lot of things we try to do, at least offensively in the passing game, which we have had some success with certainly, is an ability to be on the same page, to read and adjust to a coverage. Any one particular pass could have a number of options off of it, not just a merely an ability to step inside or outside. There are some subtleties with that combined with protection standpoint whether there is – again, not to get into too many specifics – there are enough variables there that while this is not what we want to have happening now. In my estimation we’d like to be further along. I can certainly see along with the growing pains that it is part of the process within the system that sometimes you have those [miscommunications].

“The key thing is when they do happen they end up being, ideally, incompletions or having to punt the football on third down, both of which we don’t like but they are far better than turning the ball over. It is something that we are continuing to deal with but we are excited about.”

To break down what Sullivan is explaining sort of requires a dip into football history. The Bucs offense, a branch off the Giants offensive limb, has some hints of the run-and-shoot, which is a nod to Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Grilbride’s history with the old Houston Oilers where he ran a version of the run-and-shoot as the team’s offensive coordinator.

For wide receivers in the old run-and-shoot, it was sort of the “run to daylight” concept, freelancing. Not unlike what Vince Lombardi created with running backs in the 1950s when he was an offensive coordinator at West Point and later, the Giants. At the time, it was revolutionary, the running back didn’t just run through the hole — open or not — he was assigned on a play to freelance and “run to daylight.”

But Sullivan’s offense isn’t that exotic in that the wide receivers can just run wherever they choose and hope the quarterback reads their mind. On every route there are several options depending on where the receiver breaks, what play the defense is in, down-and-distance, any number of factors.

And when receivers break, there could be as many as five or seven different options per route on how to break off, again, based on many factors and what Sullivan terms “variables.” Think of it as each route a receiver runs has its own individual route tree.

It isn’t just the quarterback that has to read the defense. So too must the receiver. The quarterback and the receiver must meld together. Any slight deviation and it could look like an ugly incompletion, or worse, a pick-six.

This is why Freeman always talks about “miscommunications.” He may be reading one thing, a receiver might (incorrectly) be reading something totally different (or vice-versa) and the receiver will turn a route into something foreign to Freeman. In other words, quarterback and receiver are not melding, or “not on the same page,” an oft-used phrase.

Of course, opposing defensive coordinators know this and might try to deploy junk defenses or a confusing defensive look at the Bucs for the purpose not only of stopping a pass, but confusing Freeman or his receivers. It’s a giant (no pun intended) cat-and-mouse game.

It is for that reason that miscommunications can happen each game between Freeman and his intended targets. It’s also why Freeman’s teammates (receiver Mike Williams in particular) came out swinging in Freeman’s defense as the uproar from the fans grew loud and testy.

“I wouldn’t say there is too much thinking going on,” receiver Tiquan Underwood said about the miscommunications of late. “We have shown we can handle it. It’s not so much too much on our plate, it’s getting on the same page. At the end of the day, the receivers have to be on the same page as the quarterback. When that goes well, we have shown we can play well.

“It takes a smart guy to play in this system. We are all smart here and we can handle it and it’s our job. We just have to keep repping it in practice and get things right.”

32 Responses to “Josh Freeman And Miscommunication”

  1. Justin Says:

    Thank you for explaining the intricacies of the offense. Maybe now the fans will realize its not as simple as “you go run a post, you go run a dig and I’ll throw it deep.”

  2. Ian's Gay Lisp & Ron's Drinking Problem Says:

    i don’t see ANY ‘miscommunication” with 1st year Denver QB, Peyton Manning…after sitting out a full year (b/c he does not allow it). “miscommunication” seems to be an EXCUSE word…just like saying “I mis-spoke”

  3. Justin Says:

    Nothing against Peyton Manning but his throws consists of bubble screens and short crossing routes. Works well with their personnel and his current arm strength.

  4. Meh Says:

    This is just excuses.

    He misses wide open check down receivers that are right in front of him. Badly. He throws balls badly out of bounds, was the receiver supposed to be running a route out of bounds?

    I have no doubts that some of these problems are related to the new system, but Freeman’s accuracy problems are much deeper, and he’s had them under multiple offensive systems.

  5. Ramdog Says:

    Once again I will reiterate there is nothing out there. Here are a list of the Free Agents for next year:

    Luke McCown – ATL
    Joe Flacco – BAL
    Tarvaris Jackson – BUF
    Tyler Thigpen – BUF
    Derek Anderson – CAR
    Jason Campbell – CHI
    Josh McCown – CHI
    Bruce Gradkowski – CIN
    Drew Stanton – IND
    Brady Quinn – KC
    Pat Devlin – MIA – (Ex)
    Matt Moore – MIA
    Chase Daniel – NO
    David Carr – NYG
    Matt Leinart – OAK
    Charlie Batch – PIT
    Byron Leftwich – PIT
    Kellen Clemens – STL
    Rex Grossman – WAS

    Also the draft is nothing close to what it was last year. Also look at the list above. Hmmmm all those QB’s people paid a lot of money who know a lot more about football that anyone on this site chose them thinking they were going to be “franchise” quarterbacks or at the very least starters. Some of them even took their team to the Superbowl (Rex Grossman).

    Of course there are three on that list that started for the BUCS and were absolutely horrid.

  6. Ian's Gay Lisp & Ron's Drinking Problem Says:

    #5 also mis-see’s pressure that is not there. He just learned how to slide at age 24….maybe by age 28…he can learn to get rid of his—> Bitter Beer Face <—- when things break down

  7. William Says:

    Some of you are pathetic…. Yes he may have missed some passes but looking at the whole season…. he still only threw what 11 or 12 INTS the whole year and look how many games we would have won if our pass defense was at best just bad….. it is HORRENDOUS and flat out PATHETIC…. look back at the GIANTS game which we should have won…. was that his fault NO…. look to just a couple of weeks ago when we lost to the EAGLES yes he played horrible in the first half but then came back to give us an 11 point lead with less than 6 min remaining…. is that his fault that we lost…. or go to the WASHINGTON game when he gave us a 2 point lead with just above 1 minute remaining and the opposing team had NO timeouts is that his fault… or the first NEW ORLEANS game….. when he shredded the saints was that his fault that we lost…. JOSH FREEMAN may be erratic at times but how many times at the end of the game he is just MONEY….. LOOK AT THE LAST PANTHERS GAME…..



  8. Meh Says:

    You can call it pathetic all you want, but it is the truth. Did I say we needed a new QB? No. I think we have to stick with Freeman and see how he develops. But you just cannot dismiss his accuracy problems, especially in the short game. It simply must be fixed. And making excuses for it and coddling Freeman is not going to get it done.

  9. Kevin Says:

    Josh Freeman I know you read these posts, it’s only human nature. Just keep this in mind. There are thousands and thousands of Buccaneer fans. Don’t let 25 guys who never played a down of varsity high school football get you down. The bashing of you is ridiculous, just keep working hard and know that the vast majority of us have your back. Oh, and thanks for all the clutch come from behind victories.

  10. Bucnjim Says:

    Well said Kevin!

    We’ve had some set backs & it’s frustrating, but this is by far the BEST offense the Bucs have had in the history of the franchise. Gruden did very well with the help of a #1 defense and field position. His offense was productive. Our offense now is explosive and can score (when on) at any given time.

  11. PRBucFan Says:

    Lol all his fan bois are getting braver now as the week goes on when none of them were anywhere to be found earlier on.

    Sure, the system has its growing pains however no matter how bad you may be in denial the truth is that Josh HAS issues with accuracy and inconsistency. As said above there have been many many many “breakdowns” that are simply bad bad bad misses that are not a matter of him throwing to other vicinities but of him missing receivers. In fact if you re watch games Josh has probably been one of the luckiest QB’s in the sheer amount of passes DB’s have dropped that he has placed right into their hands. I hear ya Joe, and again no doubt that the system has its growing pains but Its seems that the sad truth is that maybe mentally they are just took much for Free, maybe it’s just too intricate of a system for Josh to able to grasp it. Seems that the system maybe is just exposing the ineptitude Free has in certain areas of his game.

  12. Miguel El Magnifico Says:

    Fire Sullivan.

    Hire Norv Turner.

    Trade for Mallett.

    Trade Freeman.

    Draft Geno.

    Shore up DB’s.

    Go to playoffs.

    If you really want to revolutionize the NFL, sell out CITS Stadium and win a bunch of Superbowls hire Chip Kelly and forget Norv Turner.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.

  13. Gus Says:

    The most prolific offense in bucs history and people want to get rid of the qb because he has short accuracy problems. A good portion of team would kill to have Freeman. Teams that would LOVE to have Freeman:
    Kansas City
    New York Jets

  14. PRBucFan Says:

    Gus. CMon don’t act like your blind
    In the end it’s about winning games not about how prolific our offense is. I would rather have the most boring offense on earth if they can bring W’s to the table.

  15. Gus Says:

    But yet the tampa fans act as if we have a history of great qbs and Freeman(on the most prolific offense the team has ever seen) that we should just get rid of him. Those people are ridiculous. Everyone that is very critical of Freeman should be. He flat out hasn’t played well but ease up on the get rid of speak

  16. PRBucFan Says:

    Yea, your right. I do believe he deserves to play out his contract but next year is the year all excuses are thrown out.

  17. Gus Says:

    You need a defense to win games too. This is not just a bad pass defense. It’s one of the worse in history. With Brady we only win maybe 2 more games. Freeman has cost us in the Dallas, Saints, and Atlanta. The rest of our losses are on the defense. None of the elite qbs have played with a pass d this bad. Brady had a team with 32nd pass d and I would take that over our pass d any day

  18. Gus Says:

    PRBuc I agree and disagree. Business wise it’s smart to sign him right now to 5 year deal. It would be much cheaper. If he stinks next year it will be easier to trade him. If he plays well. We have a good qb on the cheap.

  19. PRBucFan Says:

    I see where your coming from.

  20. Ruggyup Says:

    I believe in other businesses this entire matter is called a “coverup” or, as others of us like to say, a “cluster f…….”

  21. BucFan20 Says:

    Can’t wait til next season. Watch the same excuses fly just like the past two. So as long as there was no PRESSURE on him everybody was “on the same page”. When he is under PRESSURE (or thinks he is) nothing works.” How did everyone get off the same page against the worst defense in the NFL?? The Saints changed that much ?

  22. Gusjackson Says:

    @Miguel I am going to go through one by one on that statment and explain why it makes NO SENSE AT ALL.

    Fire Sullivan. Fire the guy who has put one of the best offenses the bucs have ever seen. Yeah thats not happening. It was only weeks ago we were talking about him being a head coach somewhere.

    Hire Norv Turner. I love Turner as much anyone as an offensive coordinator. He is one if not the best in the business. For that reason alone we won’t get him. He will most likely go to Baltimore.

    Trade for Mallett. And give up what…..Freeman for Mallett straight up is the dumbest trade of all time! Bill is keeping him to be the successor to Brady.

    Trade Freeman. For what? Why when they could sign him now on the cheap. If he plays well next year we have a cheap QB. If he stinks we have an easy to trade contract. No team in their right mind would trade to have Freeman for only one year. Makes no sense

    Draft Geno. I listed a whole bunch of teams that need a qb. Most of them are ahead of us. We would have to give up WAAAAAYYYYYY too much to be in position to draft him. He will most likely be 1 or 2. We are looking at being somewhere in the teens.

    Shore up DB’s. How the hell can we do that if we trade for Geno. We would have to give up a 1st and a 2nd at least to get that spot. So we are looking at the same DBs next year. Don’t care if we have Manning we would still be a 9 win team with these DBs.

    “If you really want to revolutionize the NFL, sell out CITS Stadium and win a bunch of Superbowls hire Chip Kelly and forget Norv Turner.”
    We tried that didn’t work.

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.”
    Coming from the guy who comes on this and to say the exact same thing every time.

  23. PRBucFan Says:

    I think we’ll have a top10 pick, just sayin.

  24. Gusjackson Says:

    Right now we are 16. We could easily drop to 10. But even from 10 trading up would require way too much. Expecially for a qb. Your looking at a 1st and second this year and next year.

  25. eric Says:

    Could have learned Mandarin Chinese by now.

  26. stevek Says:

    @ Gus,

    In today’s NFL, you need to have a consistent signal caller.

    Freeman can’t make a 5 yard dump off to the flats with touch. He will often times overthrow the reciever, or he may even throw a rocket off their face mask which will bounce for an easy pick (ask D. Ware).

    Also, when will we see improvement, consistent improvement.

    Rooting for Josh Freeman is a lot like rooting for Dallas’ Tony Romo: A roller coaster ride. One minute they are making elite throws and putting up major points, and the next they can’t make a 5 yard dump off, or in Romo’s case hold chip shot field goal.

    In 4 years as our starting QB, Freeman has shown flashes, but when it counts he folds like a tent.

    Where is the emotion out there? “Miscommmunication this… Miscommunication that.”

    What irks me most was Freeman’s SORRY EXCUSE for an audible @ Dallas. There was about 2 minutes left, and we had a 3rd down in 9, deep in our own territory. The radio communication went down, and so did our chances of winning. Freeman dialed up, “the only play he could think of”: a HB dive.

    Winners want the ball in their hands in the winding moments, and clearly Freeman did not.

    Another point, last year when we beat the Falcons at home. Freeman rushed for a TD and did a bird-like dance in the endzone. At the time, I thought that it was to mock the “dirty birds”, but he actually said after the game, “oh no, this was a goal celebration off of FIFA soccer game.”

    I bring up the FIFA soccer comment now, and here’s why: How can a 4th year starting NFL QB not “know another audlible”, but he can take the time to master FIFA soccer dances?

    As a Madden Video gamer, I am mystified as to why Freeman isn’t playing that kind of a game to better grasp audibles?

    As for the future, we need consistency at QB. We can’t win if Freeman wants to kick it into “robo-suck” out there.

  27. tim Says:

    Oh come on. If we had a boring/bad offense then Id understand being so upset at the QB. But overall this year it has been pretty good. Of course anyone would take a boring offense if they won. But when you have a defense as bad as ours then it really doesn’t matter how good your Offense is. I agree that Josh hasnt been great the past 2-3 games. But damn he sucked ass in the first half against the eagles, yet he still gave us a 11 point lead with like 7 minutes left. And We’ve had hardly no running game the past month.

    Even thought I like Freeman i can see his problem. I know hes had bad games. And I try not to blindly defend him. But i swear some on this site just hate him so much they dont look at everything. We are going to have the worse pass defense in the history of the NFL once this years over. Yet we wanna blame the QB for everything. Even thought the defense has blown like 2-3 leads at least, in the last few minutes of the game. Also Im tired of hearing who we should trade for or Draft. I think the great QB class of this past NFL draft has everyone’s head clouded. Usually more than not you dont get a Luck or RG3. I have no clue why anyone would want the Bucs to take another chance on a rookie Qb.

  28. stevek Says:

    @ tim,

    Are we in the playoffs? Are we in contention? Did we beat the “Bounty Gate” Saints?

    We suck, and we still have a long way to go.

    Time for Dom to bring in some more free agents and trim this roster of dead weight:

    Reejus Benn, Trueblood, Quincy Black, ALL of our CB’s.

  29. Gus Says:

    @Stevek comparing Romo to Freeman makes sense somewhat. Romo at his best is Aaron Rodgers, at his worse he is Brady Quinn. Freeman at his best is Big Ben, at his worse he’s Jamarcus Russel(I will never spell his name correctly he doesn’t deserve it). The only problem with the comparison is that Freeman is 24 years old. Romo is 8 years older than him! He played consistently well mid season. He is in a slump. Another year to gel with the talent and he can play at his best. Also using your Romo comparison, Dallas has been paitent with Romo and he had his an excellent season last year. This year they are control their own destiny to go to the playoffs. So how about we be paitent and give him a chance to learn the system. The ATL touchdown dance comment is just foolish. He has a f****** life and I thought that was pretty cool touchdown celebration and has NOTHING to do with his dedication to the playbook

  30. SteveK Says:

    @ Gus

    You said: “Jamarcus Russell (he doesn’t deserve his name spelled right)”

    LMAO! Right on, just like Alburt Haynesworff.

  31. Brent Says:

    Great explaination of the offense. I feel Freeman will be fine. When Eli was drafted and first several years I was forced to watch every Giants game with my gf geeezz…. But anyhow I see simular actions by Freeman to Eli when he was learning the system. We’ll be just fine 🙂

  32. Gus Says:

    For anyone that wants to get rid of Freeman look at a guy in our own division. Drew Brees. The Chargers have up on him in favor of getting a new rookie qb. Brees goes to NO and the rest is history. How many Chargers fans were kickin and screaming when he won the Super Bowl. The man went on to have one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had. Buc fans, do you really want this to be us. Do we really want to see Freeman go to Arizona and end up winning a championship? Hell no. Be patient his time will come