10th Anniversary

I can’t believe it has been 10 years.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up watching the Joe Jurevicius catch and run, knowing all that he had gone through that week.

The 2002 Buccaneers represent the high-water mark in my sports watching life. Do the 2012 Bucs have any magic in them? Can they run the table the last four games and make a run at another title? Probably not with our pass D.

My favorite part of those playoffs was that Alstott scored in both playoff games and the Super Bowl.

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Who is Josh Freeman?

As the title implies, I find myself asking… uh, myself… Who is Josh Freeman?

This question is somewhat rhetorical, somewhat literal. I cannot figure out who this kid is. Is he the “comeback kid” that he showed flashes of in 2010. Routinely driving the Buccaneers for game winning/tying scores late in games. The kid who showed no fear and great leadership so early in his career. The kid who was mobile in the way that Ben Rothlisberger is mobile. Shaking would-be tacklers while keeping his eyes down field to extend plays.

Or, is he the guy we saw throw 26 INTs last year? The guy who looked shaken, confused and in over his head last year?

Coming into this year, the biggest question surrounding the Buccaneers was, which Josh Freeman is the real Josh Freeman?

Four games into the 2012 season, I can honestly say I have no idea. Week 1 against Carolina, Freeman was efficient, but not spectacular. He looked like a game manager (16-24, 138 yards and 1 TD)  who would spend most of his time handing the ball off to the Muscle Hamster and LaGarrett Blount.

In week 2, the Buccaneers found themselves in a shoot-out with the Super Bowl Champion NY Giants. Freeman responded to the challenge with his best day throwing the ball (15-28, 243 yards 2TDs, 2 INTs) and had the Bucs in position to win the game late. Freeman for the most part looked confident in the pocket.

Then came week 3 against Dallas. Freeman was terrible. There is not nice way to put it. He finished the day 10-28 for 110 yards 1TD and 1INT, but it looked a lot worse than that. In his defense, the one INT came when he threw a very catchable ball to D.J. Ware, who had the ball bounce off his face and into the waitng arms of Sean Lee (former PSU LB Sean Lee). Freeman looked hesitant and scared. The playcalling did him no favors as the Buccaneers followed the same 1st down-Run, 2nd down-Run, 3rd-down incomplete pass-script the entire game. Not once did the Buccaneers challenge the beat up Cowboys secondary deep down the field. It was a train wreck of a game for Freeman and the Bucs offense.

Finally, we had yesterday. The Bucs came into the game 1-2, but with two very close loses that easily could have been wins. In the first half, once again it was “Bad Josh”. He was inaccurate, and looked skiddish in the pocket. I considered turning the TV off at half-time with the Bucs down 21-6 and looking like they were going to be blown out.

Clearly these are not the 2011, Raheem Morris led Buccaneers. Under Greg Schiano, the Bucs came out in the second-half and shut down RGIII and the Redskins offense (until the final drive of the game). On the offensive side, Josh Freeman looked like a different QB. He looked like the guy from 2010, confident, accurate, taking deep shot after deep shot. Both Mike Williams (was his foot out-of-bounds before he caught that long pass?) and Vince Jackson ended the day with 100+ yards receiving and Freeman himself had, statistically his best game of the season (24-39, 299 1TD, 1 INT).

The Bucs lost because the defense looked lost on the final drive and because the offense laid a massive turd in the first half. But the real problem coming out of yesterday is that it did nothing to answer the major question concerning this team, and the title of this post: Who is Josh Freeman? Is he the guy that played the first 30 minutes yesterday and looked like he should be playing in the USFL? Or is he the guy who led the Bucs in the second half, throwing the ball all over the field (with accuracy) and led the team to a late go-ahead FG?

I honestly do not know, and I don’t think the Bucs do.

The Buccaneers drafted Freeman with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Here is a list of the players who were taken ahead of him:

Pick # NFL Team Player
1 DET Stafford, Matthew, QB, Georgia
2 STL Smith, Jason, OT, Baylor
3 KC Jackson, Tyson, DE, LSU
4 SEA Curry, Aaron, OLB, Wake Forest
5 NYJ Sanchez, Mark, QB, Southern Cal
6 CIN Smith, Andre, OT, Alabama
7 OAK Heyward-Bey, Darrius, WR, Maryland
8 JAX Monroe, Eugene, OT, Virginia
9 GB Raji, B.J., DT, Boston College
10 SF Crabtree, Michael, WR, Texas Tech
11 BUF Maybin, Aaron, DE, Penn State
12 DEN Moreno, Knowshon, RB, Georgia
13 WAS Orakpo, Brian, DE, Texas
14 NO Jenkins, Malcolm, CB, Ohio State
15 HOU Cushing, Brian, OLB, Southern Cal
16 SD English, Larry, DE, Northern Illinois
17 TB Freeman, Josh, QB, Kansas State

Honestly, and I am dead serious about this, there is not a single player on that list that I would rather have at this point that Josh Freeman. Ask any Jets fan how they feel about Mark Sanchez right now. Go take a look at Matthew Stafford’s stats for the 2012 season. And in doing so, keep in mind the offensive weapons that he has at his disposal

Ask Panther fans how they feel about Cam Newton right now. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are in their 5th years (one more than Freeman, Stafford and Sanchez). Can Josh Freeman be as good as Flacco and Ryan by next year, with the kind of weapons the Buccaneers have begun to surround him with? Yes, he can. Will he be? I have no freaking clue.

I don’t know who Josh Freeman is, and because of that, I am having a hard time embracing him. I made the mistake of teaching Avi that he is our favorite player before he was good enough to be dubbed so. Now I have to convince her that LaVonte David is in fact, our favorite player.

I don’t know what to make of Freeman, and until I do, I will not know what to make of these Buccaneers. They have bye this week, which gives them two weeks to get healthy and try to figure out who their quarterback really is.

On Second Thought- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It is intellectually lazy to play the “we beat them, they beat us, so we must be better than them” game.

That being said, The Buccaneers beat Carolina in week one, allowing only 10 yards rushing and making Super Cam look decidedly human in the process.

In week one, the New York Giants were beaten pretty badly by the Cowboys. They bounced back by beating the Buccanners in what ended up being a really close game. Eli Manning threw for 510 yards. But, if not for two questionable (in my opinion) calls, the unnecessary Roughness not called on Vincent Jackson and the Mike Williams “drop”, The Bucs might have won this game. In the end, they stood toe to toe with the Giants and came away with a very close loss. Josh Freeman looked really good for most of the game and there were definitely positives to take away.

The same cannot be said for the Pathers last night. In two of three games this year, Cam Newton has looked terrible. similar to Josh Freeman, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding Cam at this point.

When I turned off the game on Sunday, I felt defeated. I was disappointed that the Bucs didn’t hold on for the win, and I was feeling like I had just been punched in the face by reality. That reality being that these Buccaneers are not ready, yet, to compete with the best teams in the NFC. The more I think about it, maybe they are.

Sunday’s game will tell a lot about where the Buccaneers are headed. 2-1 with wins over Carolina and Dallas and one close loss to the Giants will look infinitely better than 1-2 and a team trying to decide if they are any good this year.

Watch out of Mike Williams this week.