Replacing Josh Freeman is harder than it sounds

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Josh Freeman is inconsistent, inaccurate, struggles to read coverages at times and has lost the Buccaneers several games. In other words: he's a quarterback.

Josh Freeman is inconsistent. He's awful. He's the worst. He can't hit a short pass to save his life. He keeps overthrowing Mike Williams. He keeps turning the ball over. He's the reason the secondary can't stop Julio Jones. Well, maybe not that last one, but you do hear a lot of these critiques. And the thing is: none of them are really inaccurate.

Freeman has struggled. He is inconsistent. His accuracy has been lacking. He's had some really bad overthrows. And those eight interceptions in two games? Well, that's completely unacceptable -- even when the cause for these interceptions isn't always him.

Yet does that make him different from any sub-elite quarterback in the NFL right now? No, he's not Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. But the dissatisfaction among Bucs fans also comes from a certain lack of perspective. Ask them whether they think Andrew Luck has played better than Josh Freeman this season they'd likely say "yes" immediately. And while Luck has certainly shown a lot of promise and a lot of attributes that could turn him into an elite quarterback, he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. Statistically, he's worse than Freeman in nearly every way - even though I would agree that he has a brighter future than Freeman.

When confronted with the idea that it's hard to find a better quarterback than Josh Freeman anywhere, people come up with players like Andy Dalton. And yet, Dalton hasn't been any better than Freeman this season. It's the fallacy of wins: Cincinnati is 8-6 whereas the Bucs are 6-8 and out of the playoffs. But Cincinnati doesn't have a defense that is giving up an insane 7.5 yards per pass attempt, more than any other team in the league.

This lack of perspective is also caused by not watching these quarterbacks every week, and mostly remembering Freeman's negative games. When you don't watch Peyton Manning every week, it's easy to forget when he loses the Broncos a game by throwing three interceptions against the Falcons. When you watch Freeman throw eight interceptions over two games, it's easy to forget the five-game streak when he threw for 12 interceptions and averaged nearly 10 yards per attempt. When you're not invested in whether the Giants win or lose, it's easy to forget when Eli Manning gets shut out by the Falcons, or throws four picks and no touchdowns in a four-game span.

That's not to say that Josh Freeman is a perfect quarterback, or even close to elite. He is much too inaccurate and makes too many poor decisions for that. He has had some hideous games this season. But let's not forget a simple fact: he's still better than most quarterbacks in the NFL, and finding replacements is much, much harder than it may seen. Sure, a few quarterbacks this season have looked good for a few games, or even most of a season. But the fact that the Seattle Seahawks managed to pluck Russell Wilson in the third round, doesn't mean that finding a replacement quarterback is easy.

Because the quarterbacks you're not thinking of, are players like Brandon Weeden, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, Mike Kafka or Mark Sanchez. You're thinking of Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins, perhaps -- but if you'd examine their full bodies of work in the NFL so far, you couldn't realistically say they've been any good. Before this year, only two drafted quarterbacks since 2009 could honestly be called real successes: Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton. And even those two have their issues: Stafford is inconsistent and inaccurate with poor technique. Newton, too, has a tendency to be erratic and inaccurate and has been (likely unfairly) criticized for his leadership. And neither of their teams has won much, if you're someone who evaluates quarterbacks by their wins.

Do you want a new quarterback? If you do, is it because you truly see success with anyone else -- or is it because you're intrigued by the hope of a new quarterback? Of someone who maybe will do better than Freeman? Of another three years of going "we have a quarterback" -- and then perhaps he will turn out to be Peyton Manning, or he'll end up being Andy Dalton and you'll be disappointed, too.

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