Drafting a potential franchise quarterback is only part of the battle in the NFL. Not only do you have to properly identify talent, you have to be in a position to draft that prospect. Just being in the right place to have access to a franchise changer is difficult enough, but when you compare it to the months and years of development ahead, it might seem that scouting and drafting are the easy parts of the equation.
Once you have found a player you feel can and will succeed at the next level, the hard part begins. As I've never been either an NFL prospect or an NFL coach, I can only guess as to what goes on behind closed doors, but let me take a shot at it. You have to work on footwork, tweak the delivery, teach the player the new lingo and playbook. You have to essentially break them of the college game (at least for most QBs) and begin to refine their entire player persona. This requires hours of coaching and teaching. Even with all the right teaching and tools, it does not guarantee a success. You don't want too many cooks in the kitchen, but at the same time you almost need a 24 hour babysitter to help push the young player the right way.
The Bucs had the right idea, but have done a terrible job of following through with it. Lets assume for a second that Josh Freeman is a franchise quarterback, that he has most, if not all of the tools to be successful. Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik (and others) did their due diligence; they scouted, tested and finally traded up and selected Freeman with the 17th pick of the 2009 NFL draft. Lets also assume that the coaches we have in place are capable and competent in what they do.
When Freeman was drafted, we had a plan (apparently) in place. We would hire an offensive coordinator to develop and implement a scheme that would play to our team's strengths. He would be the individual that would be tasked with formulating a game plan every week and calling plays on Sundays. The Bucs would also have a quarterbacks coach on the team. A person who worked solely with the quarterback, not only on fundamentals, but also coached them up on the finer points of the game plan.
With a veteran quarterback, I would venture a guess that while a quarterbacks coach is still needed, he is not as necessary as he would be on a team with a yount/rookie quarterback. My reasoning for this is fairly simple. A young quarterback typically needs more guidance and coaching than an established veteran, though a third party to each player is a good thing.
Again, I'm not an NFL coach, but I would imagine that in Freeman's first 6 months with the team, they would have worked on his ability to read a defense, the process of going through his progressions, footwork, proper technique when throwing the ball, conditioning, game management, and some leadership tools. How each coach handles those duties probably differs, but you just hope that the people in position to make a difference can handle those tasks.
Back to the original assumptions. With both an OC and QBC in place, Freeman would be tutored on quarterback specifics daily by one coach who was dedicated to being a full time quarterbacks coach. This was the original plan. As we all know, that has changed drastically in the previous few months.
We now have one coach who is acting as both. I don't want to discuss his successes or failures as an OC or as a QB coach, but point more towards the demands on his time. Olson no longer is able to work with Freeman on a daily/hourly basis. His time now has to be split, to what degree I don't know, but I imagine developing a game plan, installing new plays, film study on opposing defenses and scripting of plays takes a fair amount of time. And all that time was previously supposed to be dedicated to Freeman.
Olson is not at fault here, not for this particular quandary. If Jeff Garcia were still here (or any other vet QB), I don't know that it would be a big deal. But with a fresh faced rookie, who by all accounts wasn't ready to start Day 1 and needed/needs to develop, the Bucs are basically depriving him of a full time coach. I've harped on this all year, coaches are put in place to get their players in the best position to win a game. For each coach and team that means something different. Right now, that's not happening.
The play calling dilemma is a conversation for another day. I don't see how the Bucs organization can be successful with some of the practices and policies they have in place. I'd love for Freeman to succeed, but we aren't loading the deck in his favor with the current staff and their allocations.
We all saw Freeman throw 5 picks two weeks ago against the Panthers. It was just one of those games and I hoped we would never see it again. After that, there should have been a ton of film study, tweaking and coaching done. Maybe there was. But when he came out and fired a few more picks and looked generally awful against the Jets, it raised huge red flags for me. We have one of two problems (or maybe both). Either Freeman isn't learning, retaining, or progressing as he should (it's still early, I realize this), or he isn't getting the help he needs.
Freeman and the QB coach should have been tearing up film this week to correct the issues. To me, some of them are obvious. He has a propensity to stare down receivers, he rarely steps into throws to put some gas behind them, he makes ill-advised throws when a check down is available, and ball security. I would assume these all can be fixed as many quarterbacks had the same issue at points. But on Sunday, I saw no evidence that any of this was even talked about. And let me be fair. They may have spent all week working on this and Freeman just didn't get it or didn't execute. While that's a possibility, I think it leans more on coaching. Freeman, for all his talent, hasn't progressed from start #1 until now, he's regressed. He still stares down targets, he doesn't dump the ball off or throw it away and seems to be comfortable just throwing off his back foot. That's a recipe for disaster now and later.
It's also no secret that the Bucs coaching staff has been a disaster and in flux all year. Jags, Bates, Olson (as an OC); these guys have all been under fire. These guys were or can be replaced, but what can't be replaced is Freeman's rookie year, his supposed "learning" year. It does no good to continue throwing him out there without the proper tools or preparation. Throwing just to have him throw is not a good practice, especially when his bad habits aren't being corrected.
It's important to make use of the last 3 games for him. This means extra film, extra study, extra prep on his part. It also means the Bucs front office needs to realize that they need to hire someone who can take Freeman aside and coach him as a quarterbacks coach, full time, not as an OC/QB coach a part of the time. The clock is ticking, this year is almost over, Freeman won't be a rookie next year which means we will expect more of him. I wrote when we first drafted him, signed him and started him that since he's on the team now, its on the Bucs staff to give him the chance to succeed. Right now, they are failing miserably. And unfortunately, this is one of those things that holds back franchises.