Not surprisingly, the Bucs stink. They lost to the Jets on Sunday, racking up a whole 250 yards and going 6-for-16 on third down. Freeman completed less than half his passes and tossed an interception to go along with his touchdown. In his fifth season out of Kansas State, Freeman is a career 59-percent passer with a quarterback rating of 79.6.
And yet the guy threw for 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last year, easily his best season since being drafted No. 17 overall in 2009. And yet his teammates clearly don’t consider him a leader and, talented as Freeman is, people are now loudly wondering whether the Bucs could ever win anything big with Freeman under center.
This situation is familiar to anybody who followed Freeman’s career at Kansas State. A native of Grandview, Mo., Freeman was Scout.com’s 15th-ranked quarterback in the class of 2006. He initially committed to play for Bill Callahan at Nebraska, but was romanced by former Kansas State coach Ron Prince and signed with the Wildcats instead.
He was one of the most highly touted players ever to sign at Kansas State and was given the starting job almost immediately.
Prince tailored Kansas State’s offense around Freeman’s big arm, and he put up grandiose numbers his sophomore and junior seasons. But he seemed to save his worst moments for the biggest moments. He was particularly bad against in-state rival Kansas, against which he committed 13 turnovers in three games.
Kansas State lost all those games, the final one costing Prince his job. Throughout his career, there was always an argument among fans and media about whether Freeman had “It,” whatever “It” is. Some saw a guy without charisma or leadership qualities who tended to pile up numbers when the pressure was off. He went winless against K-State’s three biggest rivals, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Others saw the 6-foot-6 frame, the huge arm and the robust statistical totals and said the “It Factor” was hogwash.
In that way, Freeman became an abstraction, the ping-pong ball people used to bat around their worldviews.
Well, the Bucs looked at the talent. It’s no coincidence that the coach at the time was Raheem Morris, who had been an assistant coach under Prince at Kansas State. Freeman was his boy. As had been the case at Kansas State, he was named the starting quarterback early, and after a rough first season appeared to be on his way to stardom.
Tampa Bay is 24-40 since Freeman arrived. Morris was fired after a 4-12 2011 season (in which Freeman completed a career-high 63 percent of his career-high 346 passes for what was then a career-high 3,500 yards and a career-high 22 interceptions).
Two years later he’s been stripped of his captaincy and according to the Tampa Tribune needs a big performance this week in order to keep his starting job.
Josh Freeman’s tenure with the Bucs appears to be reaching critical mass. He needs a big game Sunday against the Saints to stop the bleeding