Out of all the franchises in the NFL, Tampa might be the one that I pay the least amount of attention to. They’re stuck in an insanely competitive NFC South and they’re consistently the worst in the division. But over the last few years they’ve added enough pieces that they’re actually becoming fun to watch. But to get there it took a lot of bad coaches, schemes, and draft picks. There were a few in consideration but I ended up going with this player based on his potential and what he meant to the franchise.
That player is Josh Freeman, the quarterback out of Kansas State that Tampa drafted 17th overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Freeman was considered a bit of a project at QB, but had all the tools be be a franchise changing player. He stood at 6’6 and 250 pounds, paired with deceptive mobility and a live arm. Freeman finally got the chance to play during November of his rookie year and finished the season as the starter. He entered the 2010 season as the unquestioned starter at QB and played well enough to become a Pro Bowl alternate.
Heading into 2011 expectations were soaring after his strong year, but instead he regressed significantly throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Tampa went 4-12 that season, losing 10 straight to finish the year. The coaching staff was fired, and more weapons were added to the offense, leading Freeman to have a better year statistically. That caused expectations to be high yet again, only for fans to be disappointed by Freeman again.
Trouble was brewing inside the locker room, rumors swirled about Freeman and how his fellow players viewed him. He missed the team’s picture sessions, and wasn’t voted team captain for the first time since his rookie season. They started 0-3 while Freeman struggled to a 46% completion percentage and a 59.3 QBR. He would be benched for rookie Mike Glennon and then eventually released. He bounced around to a few teams but has been completely out of the league for a few years now.
When the Bucs took him there were still multiple difference makers on the board, some of who are still playing at a high level. Guys like Alex Mack, Jeremy Maclin, Clay Matthews, LeSean McCoy, Eric Wood, and Max Unger were still available when he was selected. While this was a weak QB class, it would have been less of a disappointment if they had added a solid player instead of a heartbreaking bust.
It’s a shame because he gave the Tampa Bay fans something to be hopeful about, he was their ticket to relevancy. Fortunately for them their front office has been successful as of late and they’ve collected players like Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and OJ Howard. They’re a few players away from making a run at the NFC South title.