Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Josh Freeman has decided that learning from a 2-time Super Bowl champion head coach in Tom Coughlin and quarterback in Eli Manning may revitalize his career. He joins Manning, second-year player out of Syracuse Ryan Nassib, and journeyman Curtis Painter. As the roster size cuts down, Painter will more likely be released than either Nassib or Freeman but there will be competition for that primary backup QB spot in case of Eli being either injured or inconsistent. For Freeman, this opportunity may be the best since his earliest days in Tampa Bay.
Freeman drafted by fluctuating Tampa Bay out of Kansas State
Freeman’s journey in the NFL has been inconsistent not because of his talent but because of the constant fluctuating, changing, of coaches, players, and executives in Tampa Bay. Before Josh’s arrival in Tampa Bay, head coach John Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were both fired before the end of the 2008 season. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was dismissed ten days before the start of the regular season. Mark Dominik, GM who was recently released for the Lovie Smith regime, was introduced around the time Raheem Morris was.
The Buccaneers started the season adjusting to an entirely new organization and the instability showed on the field. The Buccaneers start the season 0-2 with Byron Leftwich at quarterback, then Josh Johnson went 0-5 with Johnson’s benching happening midway in the 4th quarter in the Week 7 loss versus the New England Patriots. Freeman’s first NFL experience is in a London blowout with only half a quarter left. He went 2 of 4 (50%) for 16 yards, but to judge Josh on that small bit of time would be truly unfair.
Desperation names Josh Freeman starter
Tampa Bay then went into the much-needed bye week to get Freeman first-team reps as he was named starter for the Week 9 matchup versus the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay (4-3) were looking for a win to build on for the rest of their season on a winless Tampa team.
Josh Freeman and the creamsicle-jersey (via ThePewterPlank.com) Buccaneers host the Packers and Freeman puts up stunning numbers for a rookie quarterback’s starting debut: 14 of 31 for 205 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception to win his first start and game of the Tampa Bay 2009 season. However, the organizational instability would remain prevalent throughout the rest of the season and the Buccaneers finished 3-13 with their other two wins against Seattle in Week 15 and earned their first and only winning streak in the 2009 season with an overtime win against the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in Week 16.
Different Way, Same Result
With New Orleans winning their first Super Bowl, the Buccaneers were no longer the only NFC South team with a Super Bowl to their name. With a clean slate, the Buccaneers start (3-1), (W vs. Cle, W @ Car, L @ Pit) going into their Week 4 bye week. The early bye week can be a disadvantage for a team, and Tampa may have been affected by it later on in the season. Freeman led the then (3-1) Buccaneers to an (8-5) record heading into Week 16 versus the (3-10) Detroit Lions. The defense continuously let Josh down when he needed them most and they lost in overtime. A victory would have helped their conference record heading into the final two weeks of the season and they would have had the opportunity to finish (11-5), which would have made Week 17 more interesting as both the Saints and Buccaneers would have made the playoffs with (11-5) records if the final two weeks resulted as they did.
Freeman carried them through the season and the Buccaneers defeated the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints to finish (10-6), needing help from other teams along the way to get one of the Wild Card spots. Unfortunately for Tampa, New Orleans finished (11-5) and Green Bay (10-6), eventual Super Bowl Champions, who held the tiebreaker over the New York Giants (10-6) via strength of victory and the Giants held the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers, ending their season outside the postseason.
Freeman’s performance suffered after that 2010 season and the lack of playoff appearances caused ownership to part ways with Raheem Morris on January 2, 2012.
The Instability Meets the Controlling Schiano
During the search process for a new head coach, Tampa Bay wanted a head coach who would take more control with the team. Former Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano signed a 5-year contract on January 27, 2012. Schiano led the Buccaneers to a (6-4) record after the first 11 weeks, putting his team in great position to make the postseason, but from Week 12 to Week 17, Tampa Bay went (1-5) to finish (7-9), tied for 2nd with the Saints and Panthers, missing the playoffs.
Sudden Disinterest and Release of Freeman
Greg Schiano retained his job for the 2013 season, and the offseason became intriguing when the Buccaneers drafted quarterback Mike Glennon out of North Carolina State with the 73rd pick in the 3rd round. Throughout the offseason, Schiano stated numerous times that Josh (Freeman) is the starting quarterback” going into the season.
If any game were to describe Josh Freeman’s career in Tampa Bay, look no further than Week 1 at the New York Jets. Freeman gave his team the lead 17-15 going into the final minutes but his defense allowed the Jets to win the game on a personal-foul that put New York in field goal range.
In Week 2‘s matchup versus the Saints, Freeman did not perform as well, but he had Tampa Bay up 14-13 going into the final drive. If the defense were to hold the Saints, they would both be (1-1) but placekicker Garrett Hartley kicked New Orleans to a (2-0) start and Tampa Bay to an (0-2) start. Tampa Bay played the New England Patriots in Week 3 and lost 23-3. Freeman in that game was 19 of 41 (46.34 passing percentage) for 236 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT and sacked 3 times.
After the loss to New England, the growing discontent between Schiano and Freeman was no longer in question, as Mike Glennon was named the starting quarterback for the Week 4 matchup versus the Arizona Cardinals. Soon after Freeman’s benching, the Buccaneers were either looking to trade Josh or release him, which happened on October 3, 2013.
Desperation calls for a Freeman
A troubled quarterback looking for work, Freeman agreed to a contract with the Minnesota Vikings at the notion of Leslie Frazier, desperate to find a way to win at (1-4). After the tragic death of Adrian Peterson’s son, the Vikings had to plan for a Week 6 matchup vs. the Carolina Panthers. Frazier started Matt Cassel over Christian Ponder, benched after suffering a rib injury Week 3 versus the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings lost 35-10, sending them to a (1-5) record, and were playing the winless New York Giants on Week 7’s Monday Night Football on ESPN.
Leslie Frazier names Josh Freeman starting quarterback for the game. Freeman seemed as surprised as all sports fans were, and the chaos ensued on the football field. Despite completing 20 passes, Josh threw the ball 53 times in the loss against the Giants.
“I definitely need time.”
These may be the truest words he spoke, and the Giants have given him an opportunity he cannot take for granted.
Upside for Giants in signing Freeman
For the Giants, Freeman adds experience to the backup QB position and Ryan Nassib can continue to learn from the sidelines in case he is the future of the organization. For the first time in Freeman’s career, he does not have to worry about winning the starting quarterback position out of camp and he will benefit from the preseason, which truly does matter. The only season Josh was completing less than 50% of his passes was this past season.
Hopefully Josh feels like he has joined a healthier environment than what he experienced in both Tampa Bay and Minnesota, and the combination of Eli Manning and Josh Freeman 4th quarter comebacks adds depth to the Giants QB competition.
Tom Coughlin would be one of the coaches that can straighten Josh out as a professional. Freeman was a college student forced in and out of Tampa Bay’s organizational instability and when the Vikings “opportunity” ($3 million) arose, can he be blamed for taking that chance? What happened in Minnesota was not Josh’s fault, and NFL executives agreed with that notion.
Thanks to Scott Kacsmar at Pro-Football-Reference, here are the statistics to Josh Freeman’s career 4th quarter comebacks