Posted in Feature,Opinion

Opinion: Leftwich, Make Way for Freeman

by Paul Mueller on September 23, 2009

If it's Josh Freeman's team, let him have it.

If it's Josh Freeman's team, let him have it.

It’s ugly. There’s no argument and there’s no way around it. And since a tough schedule suggests it’s only going to get uglier, there’s only one way to absolve the catastrophe that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under center.

You guessed it: Human sacrifice.

It’s time for change. It’s time for the future of the franchise to start taking his lumps. It’s time to throw Josh Freeman to the wolves and find out what the kid is made of. Is he built with all the steel and grit of Ben Roethlisberger? The poise and presence of Matt Ryan? The charm and arm of Mark Sanchez?

Or is he simply a tin man. Perhaps just a scarecrow, or a husky, $36 million cowardly lion. Maybe he’s Alex Smith, Tim Couch or Ryan Leaf.

There’s only one way to find out.

After all, there’s a lot at stake. There’s a franchise to worry about. People’s jobs are at risk. There are hopes and there are dreams. There’s the sanity of hundreds of thousands of fans. And they all lie in the hands of Byron Leftwich, who seems to need written permission from Raheem Morris to hit an open receiver in the fourth quarter.

So goes the quarterback carousel. Journeyman quarterbacks are a way of life in Tampa Bay. Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Rob Johnson. Tim Rattay, Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia. Luke McCown, and now Leftwich.

You know, if Bert Emanuel simply hauled in that pass in the fourth quarter of the 1999 NFC Championship game against the Rams, Shaun King would still be the quarterback today, and all this could have been avoided. Ahhh, memories.

But instead there’s Leftwich and future journeyman backup Josh Johnson ahead of Freeman, and we’ll have to make the best of it. However, Leftwich’s inability to hit open receivers and tendency to fade as the game progresses is hardly making the best of the quarterbacking talent. Leftwich makes an excellent backup. Just ask the Steelers, who counted on him several times during their Super Bowl run a year ago.

The only thing the Bucs have to lose by starting Freeman is 14 more games. If that happens, and Freeman turns out not to be the guy after all, it’s back to square one with a high draft pick in a 2010 draft peppered with quality quarterbacks. Sure, that would mean we wasted a No. 17 overall pick last year, but that’s also a time-tested tradition in Tampa Bay – just ask Dexter Jackson.

The fact remains that Leftwich is not the future, so he clearly should not be the present. He is ranked 25th in completion percentage among starters at 56 percent, and his 80.5 quarterback rating is 20th. While ranked seventh with 572 passing yards and No. 3 in completions, his 91 attempts through two games is second only to Tom Brady. When Drew Brees has as many completions as Leftwich, but 22 fewer attempts and five more touchdowns, it means Leftwich is not capitalizing on his opportunities.

Sure, the Bucs’ defense has not made it easy on the offense, often putting Leftwich in positions where he has to throw the ball and come from behind, but I cannot remember a time in franchise history when there was a quarterback who could win the game such as a Roethlisberger or Tom Brady – a stoic field general to pull his team from the grips of defeat and emerge victorious.

Instead, we get, “Excuse me, but does anyone know the way to the end zone? It’s awfully hard to find with all these defenders in the way.”

It’s time to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win, and it all starts at the quarterback position.

If Morris, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and general manager Mark Dominik want to change the culture of the franchise, they’ll have to make some bold moves, and I don’t mean moving Jermaine Philips to linebacker. I mean taking a chance on the kid from Kansas State. I mean pulling back Freeman’s skin and finding out what’s really inside. I mean throwing him into the fire and seeing how he reacts when he gets burned, because he will.

In the meantime, though, I’ll have to live with Leftwich, because it doesn’t seem like Morris is prepared to make a change. And if Leftwich turns it around and leads this team to an eight-win season, I’ll eat my words and wash them down with a nice slice of humble pie. But for now, I’ve watched two Leftwich performances, and I don’t have much of an appetite.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or Punt One! }

Lee C September 23, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I think you are being a little too hard on Lefty. We are scoring over twenty one points a game and still losing by double digits. Right now our defense is ranked dead last in the NFL. It isn’t Leftwich’s fault we are losing. Has he made some bad throws? Hell yeah. Has he made some great throws? Hell yeah x2

Freeman is not capable of the QB play that Leftwich is putting up right now. Not to mention the weekly pounding he is taking by standing tall in the pocket and delivering throws downfield.

Are you saying that since this team is incapable of winning that we may as well throw him to the wolves to let him take his licks? Or are you actually thinking that Freeman could somehow make a difference? I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t care if we had Dan Marino back there throwing to these average receivers, we would still lose with our defense.

Paul Mueller September 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Well put. However, Leftwich is not a difference-maker at quarterback. You’re telling me you want a quarterback that barely completes 50 percent of his passes? If we had a QB who completed 65 percent, and could do so in the fourth quarter, where Leftwich’s completion percentage is just 49 percent, we could control the game and keep the defense on the sidelines. The only reason he’s completed so many passes is because he throws so much.

The Cowboys give up tons of points, just like our defense, and they score a lot of points – far more than our offense. The difference is, they’re 1-1, and a field goal away from being 2-0, and the reason is that they have a quarterback that can take over a game, lead a team down the field and take advantage of a defense’s mistakes.

When Leftwich sees a blown coverage, he gets excited and overthrows a wide open receiver. If he didn’t overthrow three open men in the end zone against Dallas, we would have been in that game until the end, maybe even won it. Same with his two picks against the Bills. It’s not all his fault, but he sure as hell isn’t doing much to help the situation. I’m saying: We’re not going to the Super Bowl this year, and Leftwich is not the quarterback of the future. So why not move on sooner than later?

Lee C September 23, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I see your point, but Leftwich is not the problem. He overthrows guys, but the one pick that bounced off Stroughter *AND THE GROUND* (blind refs FTW) wasn’t his fault. He didn’t take any sacks or throw any picks in Week 1 against Dallas, who had the best pass rush in the league last year.

So, if you take away the pick that wasn’t, Leftwich has only thrown one pick in 91 attempts. That is outstanding. Do you think Freeman could have done as well? I think it may very well ruin Freeman by throwing him to the wolves this year. Let him come in for some garbage time at the end of games if you want. If you put him in there right now he is going to get way too accustomed to losing (if he isn’t already accustomed to it from being at K-State)

I would love to see what he has in the tank as far as guts go, but it just doesn’t add up. Even if we put him in there right now, and he looked absolutely horrible and below average, there is no way in Hell that Dominik and Morris are going to say they made a mistake and take Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford with the first pick.

I know Peyton Manning and recently Matt Ryan came in and made an impact but they were MUCH more polished than Freeman as rookies. He is a project. The kid can’t even beat out Josh Johnson for 2nd string. I would rather see him in there than Freeman at this point. Besides, I just picked Leftwich up in my fantasy league. He is great for points as he is always playing from behind.

Jay Coleman September 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

In my opionion neither one of these Qb’s are the answer,but Leftwich is the better Qb Period.The balls that are being over thrown are unacceptable but that is what happens when your Qb Wr timing isnt there.
Now for Josh Freeman….WOW what a waste of a draft pick!!They must have scouted him off just his height, weight,yards,and Tds,because he’s terriable.Yeah he threw 44 touchdowns in college but damn he had 500 attempts in his sophmore yr,either way did anyone care to look at his INT’S …..34…Why???Becuase the man has NO VELOCITY in his ball.It reminds me of Danny Wuerfful,Almost every out or hitch Ive seen him throw has been batted down or Int,You can get away with that crap in college where you may have a few high quality althetes on the defense.But in the NFL every cornerback is a stud they all run 4.3 4.4′s and they take that weak ass arm and turn it into a PICK6.And at 6’6 250 Josh has no excuse why he doesnt have a cannon.
Which leads me to this ,its not our Qb’s fault they can only play to thier ability.Its our front office and scouts fault.The biggest loss weve had in the last 10 years in the loss of Rich Mccay.All of our great playerswe’ve had we drafted.The Warren Sapps,D.Brooks,Lynch,Barber,Alstott all drafted and thats what seperates great teams from the rest.Since Rich left weve drafted a few good player bout overall Im sure we can all agree at the end of each draft you look at our players drafted and were like WTF wow that was a waste of a weekend

Paul Mueller September 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Heard on losing Rich McKay. He’s a great GM. Look at what he’s doing in Atlanta! Drafted Matt Ryan and traded for Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner. We sure do miss him.

Roland Johnson September 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

The offense, further more Leftwich should not be the major concern at this point. Pressure, or lack there of and the play of the secondary is what has killed the team through the first two games.

Leftwich, is a game manager, who has gotten no help from the defense and has had to work with an inconsistent ground game.

Freeman is not ready! I don’t think he should play at all this season, would rather see Johnson if the team is going to gamble on messing up a player rather then a first rounder out there having his confidence shaken.

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