Oh dear, the offseason drama about Josh Freeman is never going to end, is it? The latest comes from Pete Prisco. This time, Prisco says again that sources have told him Greg Schiano does not like Josh Freeman, and that Freeman deserves more support than that. Freeman is a true franchise quarterback, says Prisco, and the Buccaneers should love him much more than they do.
For months, we've been hearing talk from those around the Bucs organization, and some inside, who say there is friction between coach Greg Schiano and Freeman. The word is Schiano doesn't think Freeman has enough fire in the belly, that he isn't his type of quarterback.
"What does that even mean?" one NFC personnel director said. "What does he want from the guy?"
One Buccaneers source said Schiano would like to see Freeman take charge of the huddle and the locker room more.
"He wants a guy who is going to get in guys faces when they make mistakes," the source said. "The fiery, take-charge guy."
Said the NFC personnel director: "They can't all be Peyton Manning."
I like this NFC personnel director.
I think all of this is a little beside the point, though. Did the Buccaneers lose games last year because Freeman wasn't in people's faces, screaming at them? No. They lost games because they had the single worst secondary in the league, and because Josh Freeman was too inconsistent -- as was the offense as a whole, toward the end of the year.
Getting in people's faces
I remember plenty of footage of Freeman getting in people's face from 2010 and 2011. I also remember some random whining from people at the time that he was blaming others, or couldn't handle the pressure or whatever other amateur psycho-analysis people like to dabble in based off a few seconds of footage of a guy's facial expressions. That kind of analysis isn't based in fact: it's a way of finding some flimsy support for existing biases.
How do we know this? Well, when Eli Manning doesn't show emotion on the field and remains stoic, he's a steadying force. When Freeman does it, apparently he's not fiery enough. When Jay Cutler yells at his offensive linemen, he's an asshole. When Peyton Manning does it, he's a leader. Do you remember Ben Roethlisberger being an awesome leader? What about Joe Flacco?
When a player is viewed as mentally weak, everything they do is construed as confirmation of that point of view. Looks dejected after an incompletion? Can't handle failure. Yells at someone else? Blames others. Just walks back to the bench? Doesn't care. This kind of analysis is useless, because it features continually moving goalposts: nothing someone does will satisfy those arguments. What's more: we can't even know any of that stuff. We see snapshots of players during games. We have no idea what they're actually saying, how they're feeling, why they're doing what they're doing and we really don't have a clue as to how they are around the team once the game is over.
Can Josh Freeman be more of a leader?
So, can Josh Freeman even be more of a leader? I don't know. I don't even know how much of a leader he is now, and no one has any idea in that regard. We know he organized some offseason training camps back in 2011 during the lockout (not that that helped). We know that he yelled at his players some during 2010 and 2011. We certainly don't have a reason to doubt his work ethic. Did he not do that sort of stuff this year? I don't know, no one outside the team does.
Freeman does -- and he talked about it in his latest press conference.
Last year, I feel like I could have been more vocal, but at the same time learning a new system -- you want to make sure you've got your house clean before you tell somebody else that their house is messy. Everybody's kind of working hard and you kind of get in a mode where your head's kind of down and you're grinding and focused so hard on stuff that you're doing. [..] Leadership is definitely constantly evolving with different personalities and different players.
Will the Buccaneers see a different leader in Freeman this year? Who knows. Does it really matter?
Here's another fact: third-round pick Mike Glennon isn't known as a rah-rah, in-your-face leader either. What does that tell you about the type of guy Greg Schiano wants?
Just make the throws
This is what's wrong with the Buccaneers' starting quarterback: Josh Freeman simply missed too many easy throws, and made a few too many bad decisions. That's the problem with Freeman. Not some mystical inability to take charge or scream at people. Who cares about that? If Freeman just makes the throws, the offense will work and he will get a very fat extension, and deservedly so. And if he continues to miss too many throws, he can be the best leader in the world and he'll still walk out the door.
Greg Schiano wanting him to be more of a leader? Him not screaming? If he makes the throws, it all goes out the window. Vincent Jackson is not going to drop the ball because Freeman didn't yell at him, and Doug Martin is not going to slip on the field because Freeman didn't get in his face. If Freeman improves as a quarterback, he will prove to be the Bucs' first real franchise quarterback.
And if he doesn't? Then we'll see Mike Glennon in 2014.