Battle of the Josh's: Should the Bucs Draft QB Josh Freeman or just play QB Josh Johnson?

Ignoring the defense for the moment, the most unnerving aspect of the team is the Quarterback position. Paraphrasing G.M. Mark Dominik, "It’s a mystery for the fans". The Bucs success this season will depend solely on how far Luke McCown, Brian Griese, Josh Johnson, and ‘To-be-named-later’ can take us. Griese is the only signal caller that isn’t an unknown for us. We know he’s tough enough to hang in the pocket and can keep us in ball games, but we also know his ability to throw crucial interceptions. The most exciting thing about the Quarterback position is that it’s an open competition. The Bucs staff has said as much:

"Whoever wins that job (referring to the QB competition) is the starting quarterback. Brian has won a lot of games [and] played in a lot of games. Luke obviously has been limited in his ability to start and have opportunities to start, but he has practiced for years with us so there is a comfort there. Josh is a young quarterback that we felt did take a big stride last year from being a fifth-round draft choice to where he is today, and I think the OTAs and the offseason program are going be really big to see how big a jump Josh has taken as well. We think it is going to be a small learning curve for all three of them (learning Jagodzinski’s offense), and I'm excited to see them play." – G.M. Mark Dominik per the Pewter Report

It’s tough to debate the merits of Quarterbacks we haven’t seen enough of so let’s tackle the potential addition of that fourth Quarterback. Free Agency officially began six days ago and the only attainable players the Bucs have been rumored to be interested in was Bills QB J.P. Losman and Browns QB Derek Anderson (forget that failed Jay Cutler/Matt Cassel trade). Let’s go ahead and discount the interest in Losman/Anderson considering they are still available (Derek via trade) and haven’t been successful in their previous starting roles. Another Free Agent that could earn interest from the Bucs would be QB Rex Grossman, mainly because he would return to the state he had his greatest successes in (albeit in college) and he has the arm to stretch the field like Jags wants. The problem is his accuracy, he apparently doesn’t have any. He has more interceptions than touchdowns in his career and it’s been said he struggles with the short passes. Jags may not run a true West Coast Offense, but hitting backs in the flat and tight ends over the middle should occur a lot and that doesn’t bode well for Grossman’s abilities (or lack thereof). Moving on…

Bucs G.M. Mark Dominik has said on two occasions that he may look to the draft for a Quarterback. I think we’re all in agreement that Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez will not fall to us. There are several teams in need of a QB that probably can’t afford to pass them up (Lions, 49ers, and Jets to name a few) and so let’s forget Sanchez and Stafford. Could the Bucs trade up? Sure, but they already gave up their 2nd Round pick for TE Kellen Winslow, is Matthew or Mark worth our 1st, 3rd, and potentially a 5th round pick this season? For a team with serious needs on defense I don’t think it would be wise.

The Great Debate begins here: Many draft experts have long suspected the Bucs will spend their 1st Round Draft Pick (19th overall) on Kansas State QB Josh Freeman. The question many fans have is: Do we already have a more accurate, quicker, and NFL ready QB on the roster in Josh Johnson (5th Round Draft Pick last season from San Diego)? Let’s see how they measure up first:

As you can see above Josh Johnson has the edge in just about every statistical category. Passing Yardage is about the only stat Freeman measures up in. From a physical standpoint Freeman (6’6 250lbs) edges Johnson (6’3 213lb). What JJ lacks in stature he makes up for in athleticism as he finished his 40 with a 4.55 time, as Freeman was timed at 4.97 at the combine, that’s more than half a step quicker. Freeman’s numbers are more impressive though considering the competition he faced on a weekly basis. To that effect JJ did face competition on his level in the 2008 East-West Shrine Game and was named the game's Offensive MVP (5 of 11 passing for 78 yards 1 touchdown and 103 rushing yards on only three attempts, a 34 yard per rush average). JJ also has one year of NFL experience under his belt, sure that year doesn’t include one single regular season snap, but it’s one year of NFL development over Freeman. One question still remains; is Freeman that much better than Johnson?

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