During the first eight weeks of the 2009 NFL season the Buccaneers were 0-7, and it seemed like another lost season for Tampa Bay. That was until week 9 vs Green Bay when Josh Freeman made his first start after being selected in the first round of the draft earlier that year. Freeman gave the Bucs a spark when no one expected them to be competitive against Aaron Rodgers and Co. The Bucs, though, would go on to win 38-28, their first of the season after a solid performance from Freeman after throwing 3 touchdowns. As a result a new chapter began with Freeman under center.
This new chapter ushered in a 10-6 season behind the arm of Freeman, who threw for 25 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions in his first full season. Even though the Bucs ultimately lost a tie breaker against the Packers for the last wild card spot, there was a sense of hope that the Bucs finally found their QB and a formula where they could consistently win. They weren’t able to replicate the same production in 2011 though, and that ultimately led to the hiring of Greg Schiano as head coach the following season. This seemingly started the beginning of the end of Freeman’s days in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs and Freeman had an underwhelming year under the rookie head coach, where Freeman drew up a 17TD/26INT ratio. Schiano seemingly had seen enough from Freeman that prompted him to draft a QB in the 3rd round the upcoming 2013 season. That offseason and first 3 weeks of the regular season was one filled with turmoil and one too many scandals.
Freeman quickly fell out of favor with Schiano not just because of another underwhelming season in 2012, but because of a culmination of incidents as well. From showing up late or arriving drunk to events, and not to mention the leaked info of Freeman’s involvement in a drug program and allegedly botched team captain voting. This was capped off by miserable play on Freeman’s part to start the season by amassing only 2 touchdowns, taking 7 sacks, and coughing up 2 fumbles in the first 3 games. As a result rookie Mike Glennon supplanted him in week 4, and Tampa Bay never looked back.
Whose fault was it that a young promising QB in Freeman, whose career stalled out just after 5 seasons? It is easy to put the entirety of the blame on Freeman, but I believe it was a culmination of a few key things. Freeman’s inconsistent play, poor relationship with Schiano, and the unfortunate part of key plays and players not named Freeman that cost them games early on in 2013. Those main three things were ultimately what put his career on ice.
Regardless of who was to blame, Freeman could never bounce back as it seemed his confidence was shot after he let all the chaos that happened while under Schiano get in his head. He did hop around the league for a few years after being released by the Bucs and even spent a short stint in the CFL. Yet nothing materialized, though, and it forced him to hang up his cleats permanently. In the end he had a mountain of potential and not much in terms of results. Leaving Bucs fans to ponder; What could have been?