Mike Sullivan was a catalyst for Eli Manning’s transformation from an average quarterback into an “ELIte” one. Now let’s see what he can do with Josh Freeman – a bigger, faster, more mobile version of the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Sullivan, who spent six years as the New York Giants wide receivers coach, and the past two seasons as its quarterbacks coach, was recently hired as the Buccaneers’ new offensive coordinator. Under Sullivan’s teachings, Manning enjoyed his two most productive seasons as a pro. This season, he set a Giants franchise record with 4,933 passing yards, threw nine fewer interceptions compared to 2010, and posted a career-best 8.4 yards per passing attempt. Granted, Manning was blessed with two of the most dynamic wide receivers in the league—Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks—but, you have to give Eli credit for finally putting together all the intangibles. I think Sullivan is the main cause for that.
The glaring question Bucs fans are asking is, “What can he (Sullivan) do to improve Josh Freeman?” What Freeman needs is a good communicator. Someone to show him what he is doing wrong, and what he needs to do to fix it. It sounds simple enough, but it can be difficult to decipher why a wide receiver zigged when he should have zagged, why an interception was thrown, or why the quarterback held onto the ball for too long and was sacked. What fans see on the field is completely different from what coaches see.
Freeman has the talent to be a Super Bowl quarterback. This season was subpar, but 2010’s 25 touchdown-six interception performance put Freeman on the map as a quarterback to be feared for years to come. Sullivan’s coaching prowess will help Freeman mature into the quarterback fans believe he can be. How? Perhaps it’s through martial arts.
Channel an inner Chuck Norris or Mr. Miyagi and think about this. Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off. Ok, not really. Interestingly though, Sullivan is a former Army Ranger, has a blue belt in jujitsu, and is passionate about mixed martial arts. Between the hard-nosed coaching styles of Sullivan and head coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers better show a significant change in team discipline, or else some players might find themselves looking for a new team next season. During Sullivan’s two years as quarterbacks coach, he used a triangle teaching design from the Gracie Barra Costa Mesa – which is from a famous mixed martial arts family – to highlight three goals for his quarterbacks: decision-making, accuracy, and leadership. These three points were crucial to a quarterbacks’ success.
Don’t have expectations that this system will work right off the bat, however. It took Manning time to adjust to Sullivan’s teaching routine, and it could take longer for Freeman. Or, the change could be as easy as flipping a switch. Either way, I expect this Bucs team to be better conditioned, more crisp – especially in the first quarter – and more focused from a play-to-play standpoint. This is what Bucs fans have been yearning from the team for years.