Let me get this out of the way. This is not a factual piece. It's based on my opinion and take on football, in particular quarterbacks.
Now that we've got the whole disclaimer part out of the way, allow me to vent my frustration with Freeman. He hasn't taken a starting snap in the NFL yet, and I'm already leery. This has nothing to do with his collegiate success, the fact we took him in the first round, or the apparent tag by Morris as franchise QB. This is about Freeman and his habits.
There's a quarterback out in Oakland, perhaps you've heard of him. He parlayed a strong bowl game into the #1 pick for a dysfunctional franchise and has become their dysfunctional starting quarterback. Talk about a match made in heaven. Jamarcus Russell has trouble completing 50% of his passes and seems to regress with each snap he takes. But plenty of quarterbacks have failed in the NFL. What makes his failure to this point so aggravating for fans is his apparent nonchalance to his bad play as he proclaims himself not the problem. It's his inability to read a defense, but more so than that, his inability to maintain a healthy playing weight, and put in the time required of quarterbacks. There supposed to be the field general which means you want them to be a leader and to be a hard working, dedicated individual, something Russell hasn't been accused of yet.
So what does this have to do with Freeman?
As we all know, the Bucs are in the midst of their bye week. Morris gave the team some extended time off, saying it had been the plan from day one. Let's put aside the head coach politics for a second and analyze a few other pieces of information. Josh Freeman will be making his first NFL head start. He has been hailed as a franchise QB. He has also been described as not being ready for NFL play, needing some extra "seasoning" and preparation time. All of these things thus far are true, or could be very true.
But here's where I get a bit confused. As a soon-to-be-starting NFL quarterback, on one of the "not-so-good" teams this year, with a hefty contract containing my name, all the naysayers being ready for me to fail, I think I would put in some extra study time. The rumors have been out there that Freeman has been less than diligent in staying in shape and that he hasn't put in the film study or preparation needed at this point. Those are rumors, that have been echoed by a few sources.
But even now, that isn't the biggest issue. To me, Freeman taking off to go home over the bye week last Thursday and coming back tomorrow (Tuesday) seems like a huge faux-pas on this part. This was an opportunity for him and the coaching staff to show their dedication, to show their willingness to put in the time to succeed, and he opted for a trip home. Now, before the trolls run rampant and say it's not reasonable to expect him to stay in Tampa all week long to study film, let me point this out. His job is to win, to lead his team on and off the field as the starting quarterback. I don't expect him to stay every day for 24 hours, but to leave on Thursday after a short practice week and come back Tuesday is not acceptable behaviour for our new starting quarterback. He should have stayed behind for a day or so, asked Olson to run through some film with him.
If you want to be a leader, you have to do the things that are overlooked. The extra practice, film study. You have to step up when no one else will. Sure, the easy route was to get out of town following another loss. Barrett Ruud even said something to the effect of "It's good to get away from things like this." I'm sure it is, but to take a 5-6 day leave coming up on your first NFL start, when you are being handed millions to play quarterback isn't the response I was hoping for.
Maybe my expectations are unrealistic, but I had fully hoped that Freeman would step up and lead this time. The extra study isn't required, it's not mandated in his contract, he had every right to go home. But as a quarterback, the supposed leader of the team, I want more. As a young player making the first of what may be many starts, I want more from him. The Mannings, Bradys, Brees', Warners, the elite-QB's put the time in. Wes Welker has attributed all his success to "mind numbing" extra film study.
Put the time in. This was a perfect opportunity to establish good off the field fundamentals. Start with the right processes. Do more than what is asked, prepare yourself to succeed. The extra time may or may not have lead to a win, but I feel confident in saying this. If you establish good fundamentals, habits and processes early in a career, it will be much easier down the road. The work you put in now will serve you later.
Or you can coast off of natural ability and become the East Coast version of Jamarcus Russell.