The narrative is usually the same: Freeman has shown some ability but is wildly inconsistent. Rumors abound that he is not dedicated to his craft (which is complete bunk according to the spies of JoeBucsFan, 620 WDAE's Steve Duemig and Pewter Report).
There's a belief that even his own team is unsure which way he's going to go, re-signing several players but not addressing Freeman's contract and then drafting a quarterback high in last April's draft.
Is Freeman really "godawful" or is he following a similar trajectory of QBs who have won four of the last six Super Bowls?
As Freeman enters year five, he's put up some decent numbers as a quarterback. Not great, but certainly not Tim Couch or Akili Smith.
When you look at Flacco, Roethlisberger and Manning, you'll see a striking similarity.
|Quarterback||Gms||Completed||Attemps||Yds||Cmp Pct||TDs||Ints||QB Rating|
Freeman completed more passes and more yards than three of the four QBs. Flacco only had 2 more touchdown passes and 833 more yds than Freeman despite playing in 7 more games.
The big difference between Freeman, Flacco and Roethlisberger are the completion percentage (Flacco is slightly better while Big Ben is significantly better here) and interceptions. Neither Flacco or Roethlisberger are close 63 interceptions.
Freeman's career has mostly paralleled Eli's statistically, with Free edging Eli in Touchdowns, throwing less interceptions and having a superior completion percentage.
So you want your quarterback to be clutch and be able to bring your team back for victory, right?
Freeman has had 9 fourth quarter comebacks in his career. Roethlisberger had 9 in his first four seasons. Flacco had 6 and Manning (Mr. Comeback) had 9.
Think back to the games this season where Freeman rallied and put the Bucs ahead in the fourth quarter (NY Giants, Washington, Atlanta, Philadephia) only to see his defense blow the game in the waning moments.
He could have had four more to his total.
And that's really the point isn't it? The biggest difference between Josh Freeman and these other quarterbacks is in the win column.
Ben Rothlisberger started out his NFL career 13-0 and through his first four seasons had a 39-16 record as a starter. Flacco was 44-20 and Manning was 30-25. Freeman? 24-32.
You know what comes next - the apologist arguments. But if you really separate yourself from the emotion - the arguments ring true.
None of those quarterbacks had defenses ranked at or near the bottom of the league in three of his first four seasons (the lone exception - 2010 - where the defense was a mediocre 17th and was Freeman's best season statistically and in wins and losses).
None of those quarterbacks have been in three different offenses in four years.
None of them had to deal with the comedy show that was Raheem Morris and Greg Olson.
In the past two seasons, the Buccaneers talent level went from a boatload of kids who had no idea what they were doing (and probably wouldn't make most NFL rosters) to eight players who have been to a Pro Bowl and several more who are on the cusp.
In his first season under a real head coach and a real offensive coordinator, he destroyed the Buccaneer record books.
His "failed season" of 2012 happened in all of five games where he was "godawful": Dallas, Denver, Philly, the second New Orleans game and St. Louis. By the by, the Bucs held the lead in four of those five games.
In those five games, Freeman was 98 of 202, 1,325 yds, 48.5%, 6 TDs and 10 Ints, 59.1 QB Rating, 0-5 record.
In the eleven others Freeman was 208 of 356, 2,740 yds, 58.4%, 21 TDs, 7 ints, 94.3 QB Rating, 7-4 record.
In other words, for about three quarters of the season, Freeman was pretty damned good.
Freeman may never be an elite quarterback. But history has shown that you don't have to be a great quarterback to win the Super Bowl. You need a good or great team around you.
He may be what he is now - Six Flags, as one analyst called him. If he can minimize those games that he is "Bad Free" and have more games where he is "Good Free" while getting more support from his supporting cast (I'm looking at you, defense) it will result in more victories, playoff appearances and perhaps he'll even reach the heights that the four peers we talked about have achieved.
One thing is certain, Freeman would be welcomed with open arms with all but maybe 10 teams in the NFL. It's strange that so many want to run this 25 year old out of town or replace him with a rookie.