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.

Football is Back

I am probably too excited about this.

After dropping their last 10 games last year, and not really looking like they cared about it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the 2012 season looking for a bounce back season. I would be a lot less excited had they not made what appears to be all the right moves this offseason.

They dumped Raheem Morris in favor of the hard-nosed Greg Schiano. The drafted really well, including three new starters in the first two rounds with Mark Barron, Doug Martin and LaVonte David.

They massively upgraded the O-line and WR-corps with the additions of Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson.

They made and addition by subtraction by dumping Kellen Winslow.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of this will matter one bit if Josh Freeman is not able to return to his 2010 form, after amounted to a complete meltdown season last year. In his sophomore campaign, Freeman looked decisive, aggressive and ready to become the Buc’s franchise QB. In 2011, that all went to hell. Josh looked anxious in the pocket, inaccurate, and as if his pre-draft label of being in able to read a defense was going to stick with him.

It may be overly simplistic to say, but I believe as Josh Freeman goes, so goes the 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I love the kid and want nothing more than for him to be successful. I think the Bucs will not hesitate to move in if he continues to regress. I am hopeful that he continues to improve. I do think that Kellen Winslow was part of the problem for Freeman. I think Josh felt a need to force the ball to Winslow to avoid drawing the ire of the former Soilder.

I know this is only one game, but I think we will know a lot more about the direction this team is heading at the end of today. I am hoping the Bucs force feed a large dose of the Muscle Hamster down the throat of the Panther’s defense.

With the Fifth Pick…

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…

Here is to hoping that either Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson are still available when the Bucs pick at 5. I would seriously hate to have a repeat of the year the Bucs had a chance to go up and draft Calvin Johnson and instead chose to sit where they were and take Gaines Adams (who is now dead).

The Bucs have the chance to continue to completely remake the face of this team following what ended up being an absolutely terrible season. They have already added Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks, two of the premier free agents available.

There was a time in my life (before the NFL went and screwed up the draft) when draft weekend was like a holiday for me. I will sit and watch about 48 straight hours of draft coverage. Then, I would proceed to go and add every new draftee into Madden, making the players as close to their real life abilities as possible, and play out the season. This took hours.

I don’t own Madden anymore (something I regret terribly) but I am still addicted to the Draft. So, who is your team? Who are you hoping they take?

I am going to be on Twitter tonight (following sporting events on Twitter is awesome). You can follow me @In_Terrys_Head