Josh Freeman has his issues. He's inconsistent and inaccurate, a little slow to get rid of the ball and struggles to throw with anticipation over the middle of the field. Those issues aren't caused by a poor offensive line, or receiver play: they're real, and he has to fix them. The inconsistent play has made a lot of Buccaneers fans frustrated and disappointed, and they're understandably looking for greener grass. But here's the truth: Josh Freeman is going nowhere, and he will be the Bucs quarterback in 2013 because he is far and away the best option.
I've gone over this several times, but I do think it needs to be reiterated: there are no quarterbacks better than Josh Freeman available on any open market. Not in the draft (and certainly not where the Bucs pick), not in free agency and not in trade. Why not? Because Freeman is better than a lot of starters in the NFL right now, and no team has two quality starting quarterbacks. There's a reason why Arizona has had four different starting quarterbacks this year, why the Jaguars are messing around with Chad Henne, why Alex Smith got benched for an inconsistent second-year quarterback who's not really doing better, why Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Philip Rivers, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker, Jay Cutler, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez all had starting jobs this season.
It's because finding quarterbacks isn't all that easy. And sure, you can argue that a few of those players are maybe better than Josh Freeman. Maybe. But Bucs fans haven't seen them play week-in, week-out, and they aren't emotionally invested in them. And yet, all of those quarterbacks lose their teams games, throw interceptions, and have a substantial portion of the fanbase clamoring for their heads. And then we haven't even talked about quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Eli Manning, who are clearly better than Josh Freeman, but still catch a lot of flak from their own fans.
But then, some people will point to some statistics. Josh Freeman has a low completion percentage! Yes, he does. Completion percentage is important, but it's hardly the be-all end-all of quarterback statistics. It is largely influenced by offensive system. After all, do you really think he's playing worse than last season, when he was completing 62% of his passes instead of this season's 55%? Josh Freeman lost the team a few games! He sure did, but he also won them a bunch of games. Against the Chiefs, Vikings, Raiders, Chargers, Panthers and Falcons. And he would have won them games against the Giants, Redskins, Saints, Falcons and Eagles had the defense held up their end of the bargain.
In fact, I can point to exactly three games that were lost because of Josh Freeman's poor play: against the Cowboys, against the Saints and against the Rams. I can find three games that were lost because of poor quarterback play for every sub-elite quarterback in the NFL, but that doesn't mean those teams need to go out and find competition and replace those quarterbacks. You can't get stuck in an eternal search for the mythical, elite quarterback who is just around the corner -- because the quarterback you have now is good enough, but you'd just like to have Tom Brady anyway.
So, bringing in 'competition' (by which most people seem to mean 'just replace him')? Finding a better quarterback who can start now? It's not going to happen. In fact, it is completely unrealistic. A draft class with not even a single quarterback ready to start immediately, free agency as devoid of quality quarterbacks as usual, and no quarterbacks anyone should want to trade Josh Freeman for. That's a recipe for dull, brown and muddy grass. The grass may not be perfect here, but it's certainly greener than the other side's turf.
No, Bucs fans. Josh Freeman will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback in 2013. With a bit of progress, which he certainly showed this year, he will be the team's quarterback for many more years. He is far from a great quarterback. But he is certainly good enough to help the team win games.