Josh Freeman made franchise history in October when he became the first Buccaneer quarterback ever to throw at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive team games. (Vinny Testaverde once had three straight personal three-TD games, but he missed a game in the middle.)
Those nine total touchdowns against Kansas City, New Orleans and Minnesota were impressive, but just as impressive – and perhaps even more important – was the fact that he threw only one interception in that same span. Freeman memorably put up a 25-6 TD-INT ratio in his first full year as a starter in 2010, but last year those numbers flipped to 16-22. Getting him well back into the plus side of that ledger was one of new Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan’s main goals for 2012.
So, what has been the key to Freeman’s TD-INT improvement? Sullivan says it is better decision-making. Freeman concurs but also says that Sullivan’s play-calling is a big part of the reason. Obviously, these two are working well together.
“I think it just comes down to decision-making and putting him in those best possible scenarios where there is the best opportunity to make the right decision,” said Sullivan. “To his credit he has been making the right types of decisions and not trying to force things. As we have said in the past, if it is a sack or a throwaway, some of those ugly-looking throws aren’t ugly-looking throws as much as they are throwaways and avoiding the bad decisions. And that is something that we want to continue to build upon.”
Freeman doesn’t feel as if he’s “returning” to his 2010 form because the surrounding situation is different in so many ways. The experience of the past two years is certainly helping him, but it’s more a matter of getting comfortable in Sullivan’s system and becoming less prone to making mistakes.
“Also, couple that with great play-calling,” said Freeman. “I think Sully is putting our offense in an advantageous situation where we can go and succeed on Sundays. He’s calling plays in a way to get the ball in playmakers hands, formationing, and doing a lot of things. Everybody is working hard and we just have to continue to keep up this level of preparation. That’s what it’s all about.”
Freeman’s overall TD-INT ratio this season is 14-5. Extrapolated over a 16-game season, that would lead to 32 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. That TD total would be a new Buccaneer single-season record, and Freeman’s current 2.2% interception rate, while not as good as his 1.2% in 2010, is still quite a bit better than last year’s 4.1.