By Tom Krasniqi
The most important position in football is quarterback. You can make a case that it might be the most difficult position to navigate in all of sports. Quarterbacks get all the praise when you win and they get all the blame when you lose. There’s a great deal of pressure and scrutiny that goes along with playing the position. It’s the nature of the beast.
For the Bucs, Josh Freeman has to be that franchise QB. He’s had an up and down career to this point. In 2010, Freeman was superb in leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record. Along the way, he tossed 25 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. In 2011, he regressed in throwing 16 TDs and 22 picks. The Bucs went 4-12. Last year, Freeman was up and down in finishing 7-9. He did set franchise records in yards (4,065) and TD passes (27). Freeman did not play well down the stretch and had two games in which he threw 4 INTs in each contest. Freeman is entering his 5th year in the league and it’s put-up or shut-up time in a contract year no less. His inconsistency and inaccuracies have been maddening at times. So needless to say, Freeman has seen more than his fair share of criticism.
On Tuesday morning, Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was the latest to weigh in on Freeman. Tarkenton told the Sports Page show on WDAE that Freeman is a “big, strong guy” who can throw the football but adds that Freeman doesn’t play up to his talent: “But when he gets on the field, he plays sometimes at a nice level. But when I watch him, and I watched him a lot, he just plays God awful”. Ouch.
Later that Tuesday afternoon in the Bucs locker room, a man who knows all too well about receiving criticism came to Freeman’s defense—His teammate, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. McCoy seemed to be well aware of Tarkenton’s remarks, although he didn’t mention him by name. “I heard that somebody had something not too nice to say about my quarterback…..I don’t like it. If you can hear me, I don’t like it. I hope I don’t see you,” McCoy fired back.
Strong rebuttal for sure. McCoy sympathizes with Freeman because he received his share of scrutiny through his first two years in the league before reaching Pro Bowl status in 2012. McCoy was the 3rd overall selection back in 2010 and suffered season-ending injuries in each of his first two years. McCoy heard all the talk about being injury prone and that he wasn’t as good as fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who went second overall in that same draft. “I think the reason I’m so sensitive about it is because I got it for two years,” McCoy said on Tuesday. “They talked bad about me for two years so it’s like, I don’t take too well to it when they talk about my teammates.”
McCoy is a strong believer in Freeman and believes he will flourish in 2013. He says the criticism is unfair. “Honestly man, people give him so much scrutiny, I mean, y’all gotta relax…calm down,” McCoy said emphatically. “I think he gets treated unfairly a lot”. McCoy took the criticism and rebounded from it to become a Pro Bowl player. The Bucs will be elated if Freeman follows suit.
News & Notes: