Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have inserted Josh Johnson as their starting quarterback, it would seem it is only a matter of time before rookie -- and QB of the future Josh Freeman -- sees playing time. The Bucs have so far said they don't want to rush Freeman. But given their 0-4 start, the future may be coming soon. First, when do you believe Freeman will see his first NFL start (note that I didn't ask for playing time, but a start)? Second, would it be smart or a mistake to put Freeman on the field this season, given how awful it appears this Buccaneers team will be this season?
Chris Steuber, Scout.com NFL Draft analyst
At this point, the Buccaneers have to find out what they have in their young players. I think it's a good move to make Josh Johnson their starting quarterback; it will give them an opportunity to see how he reacts in a game situation. Byron Leftwich wasn't getting the job done, and it's obvious that the team was inept on offense with him at the helm. Johnson has talent and at the University of San Diego, he was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in all of college football. Obviously he hasn't shown those skills to date, but he can't be any worse than Leftwich has been thus far.
By naming Johnson the starter, you have to be fair to him and give him a chance to show what he can do. Josh Freeman is the future of the team, there's no denying that. I don't think there's any reason to start Freeman this year, because it won't be a favorable situation for him to succeed. But maybe the Bucs get lucky with Johnson and he proves to be better than anticipated. The best case scenario for the Bucs would be for Johnson to play well the rest of the way, and a team that needs a young quarterback trades for him based on his potential.
This is a transition period for Tampa Bay and there's going to be ups and downs, so finding out what you have now will only benefit the franchise in the future.
Adam Caplan, Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter
Once they are officially eliminated from playoff contention, expect to see Freeman get his first start. They'll have nothing to play for, so that's the best time to get him in there when there's no pressure on him to win games.
Unless the coaching staff thinks it would be detrimental to his career by giving him some starts, he should get in there to get meaningful experience that could carry over to next season.
Ed Thompson, Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst
I think the timing of Freeman's first start is largely on the shoulders of Josh Johnson. I don't think the Buccaneers are using him as a stop gap; he'll likely keep the starter's job this year unless he shows he can't move the team forward. I think that offensive coordinator Greg Olson has a good read on Freeman's readiness and doesn't want to throw him to the wolves too early, especially under the team's current conditions. If Johnson doesn't adjust over the next four to five weeks, Olson's hand might be forced at that point, and he may as well let the rookie take some lumps and work out his timing in a situation where he would know he wasn't the primary cause of the team's struggles—no matter how well or poorly he plays this season.
Matthew Postins, Bucsblitz.com contributor
If I have one word of advice for head coach Raheem Morris, it would be not to expose Josh Freeman to the ravages of the NFL before it's time. Therefore, I am not in favor of starting him at all this year. I am, however, in favor of getting him experience.
Think of how the University of Florida used QB Tim Tebow his freshman year. Tebow was primarily a change of pace QB who entered the game when the matchup suited his athletic skills. Freeman possesses many of those skills, including mobility and size that's good enough to handle a NFL beating, especially near the goal line.
Josh Johnson was patient and has earned this chance. By starting him now, it insulates Freeman from being exposed too soon. Not every NFL QB is as mentally strong as Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, two QBs that took a beating their rookie years and went on to greatness.
The Bucs should use Freeman in some Wildcat packages and give him 8-15 snaps per game in controlled situations where he has a good chance of being successful. Toward the end of the season, perhaps give Freeman a possession to run the offense. By mid-November it will be time to prepare for 2010 anyway.
But start him? No. No way. He's not ready. Give this kid the Tebow treatment and it will pay off down the line.