What is “Elite”?

If you didn’t watch the Buccaneers/Panthers game yesterday, sorry dude.

You missed one of the all-time classics in Bucs history.

I asked back at the beginning of the season, Who is Josh Freeman?

Honestly, I still don’t know. But I think we have a better idea.

Josh Freeman is the kid (I say “Kid” because he is six months younger than Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill) that looked like absolute crap for 3 1/2 quarters of uninspired football yesterday. Right up until he decided to go all comeback kid (a la his rookie year) and lead the Bucs on three late scoring drives including a beautifully managed 80 yard TD drive with 53 seconds to go with no time-outs remaining down by 8.

When Doug Martin’s TD run was ruled a fumble (there is no way on earth he wasn’t across the goal line) and the Panthers drove the field and scored to go up 11 with six minutes left, I assumed (wrongly) that the game was over.

Josh Freeman took over. Where he had looked lost earlier in the game, he was decisive. Where he looked inaccurate for three and a half quarters, he was on the money. The TD he threw to Vincent Jackson with 11 seconds to go in the game was a freaking thing of beauty.

That isn’t even counting the bullet he threw to Jackson for the game-tying 2pt conversion, or the nugget he laid in to Dallas Clark to win it in OT.

I am still not sure we know exactly who Josh Freeman is. There is clearly good Josh, and bad Josh. Bad Josh throws balls into coverage, or out of bounds where no receiver on earth can make a play. Good Josh was also present. He was the guy who led the Bucs back from an 11 pt deficit with no time outs and no room for error.

In my post about Who is Josh Freeman, I pointed out some of the QBs that were taken before him in the ’09 draft (Sanchez and Stafford). At this point, Josh Freeman is a better QB than both. It got me thinking, who isn’t Josh Freeman better than? And is he Elite, is he average, or is he somewhere in between?

Here are the top 10 QBs according to ESPN.com:

1 Aaron Rodgers, QB 107.3
2 Peyton Manning, QB 106.2
3 Alex Smith, QB 104.1
4 Tom Brady, QB 102.6
5 Robert Griffin III, QB 101.0
6 Ben Roethlisberger, QB 100.0
7 Drew Brees, QB 99.8
8 Matt Schaub, QB 96.8
9 Matt Ryan, QB 94.8
10 Josh Freeman, QB 94.6

I would say that on the list above, Aaron Rogers, Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Rothlisberger, Drew Brees and Matt Schaub are “better” than Josh Freeman.That puts Freeman ahead of the like so Eli Manning (#22), Jay Cutler (#24) and Tony Romo (#16).

Matt Ryan threw 5, count the 5 INTs yesterday. Is he Elite? What the hell is Elite?

That’s it.

Does that make Josh Freeman Elite? He is clearly better than average. I would say honestly that he is just on the outside looking in of the “Elite QB” discussion.

But, I think more importantly, it needs to be noted that “Elite QB” status is a flexible thing. It was pretty clear over the course of the last month of season and into the playoffs last year that Eli Manning was among the best, if not the best QB in the league. Not so much this year. Especially over the course of the last month. A lot goes into the productivity of an NFL QB and it is clearly not a concrete list of top 5 guys.

I drafted Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers in each of my three fantasy football leagues. Although each has been good, and is clearly in the top 10 of NFL QBs this year, none of my fantasy teams are undefeated. The team I own Brady in started the year 0-6 due to some bad luck, bad choices by me, and poor performance by Mr. Brady and the other players occupying the roster of the Muscle Hamsters.

My point is (do I have a point?) that Josh Freeman, although not necessarily “Elite” is very damn close to it. And more importantly for the Buccaneers this year and going forward, he is clearly getting better.

At the very least, for about 15 minutes Sunday afternoon, Josh Freeman was the best QB on the field in Carolina. The stupid look on Cam Newton’s face as the Bucs went ahead was freakin’ priceless.  Have I shared how strongly I dislike the whole “Cam Newton” thing?

Guess what guys, the effing read option doesn’t work, even when you have Superman running it.

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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.