It's rarely an isolated event or just one player that derails a team's season in the NFL, but the hot-and-cold quarterbacking of Josh Freeman was a big reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the more confounding squads in 2012.
2013 will be a fork-in-the-road season for both the team and Freeman and, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday, Freeman is ready to embrace the uncertain future.
The Buccaneers were 6-4 last season after recovering from a slow 1-3 start, but then bottomed out while losing five of their final six games. Pass defense was a fatal flaw considering Tampa Bay finished the season as the league's worst team in that category en route to getting thrashed for an average of 297.4 yards through the air per game, but Freeman too shouldered a lot of the blame.
During the five-straight-loss tailspin, Freeman threw for six touchdowns and nine interceptions while twice completing less than 50 percent of his passes. And even though Freeman set Buccaneer bests in touchdown passes (27) and passing yards (4,065) for a season, the quarterback remains a bit of an enigma heading into the last year of his rookie deal with Tampa Bay.
Once one adds Buccaneer's third-round draft pick quarterback Mike Glennon out of N.C. State into the mix, along with the team's decision to not deal with Freeman's status until the end of the year, there's a whole lot riding on the upcoming season for Freeman.
Talk has already began to surface that maybe Freeman's job security for 2013 isn't stable as Stroud writes that head coach Greg Schiano said he's not "wedded" to Freeman as starting signal-caller. That's not exactly great news considering Freeman's contract is up at the end of the season and the Bucs could let him walk, especially with Glennon now providing an alternative to Freeman that did not exist before.
Despite his contract situation, the uncertainty of his future and the challenge provided by Glennon, Freeman's comments on the 620 WDAE's Ron & Ian Show (via Bucsnation) makes him sound not even the slightest bit fazed.
"If I give it the best I've got and the Buccaneers say, "Ah, we don't think he can play for us,' at the end of the year and every other team in the NFL does and I end up wherever I end up doing whatever, I'll be content because I'll know I gave it the best I had."
Making things tougher on Freeman is the fact that the Bucs are putting in a new offense this season, giving him a new system to learn with his future already on the line. It isn't an easy system, either, as it relies heavily on reads and adjustments by both Freeman and his receivers that could make for a steep learning curve.
If Freeman can sort out the reads and get on the same page as his receivers, though, the offense should suit the quarterback's skill set because it's heavy on the deep ball and aims to stretch the field, giving Freeman a chance to show off his arm more than ever before.
The Bucs aren't sold on Freeman, at least not yet. If he sells them this season in their new offense, though, they won't have much of a choice but to pay Freeman -- and it won't be cheap. They seem to be betting that he won't be able to do so, however, or are at least skeptical enough to give themselves an out and another choice in Glennon.
Not that any of that bothers Freeman, though, if his comments are sincere.