Word broke late Sunday night that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman had joined the Minnesota Vikings on a one-year deal. With the Oakland Raiders set to take on the San Diego Chargers, in what was the latest game on the west coast in NFL history, quarterback Terrelle Pryor went into the game needing to prove that he would be the man for the Silver and Black. As it turned out, it seems Pryor has bought himself a full season to prove to management that the needy Raiders shouldn’t waste another first round pick on another quarterback.
At the end of the night, the fans leaving O.co Coliseum couldn’t have had Josh Freeman any further from their thoughts, having witnessed a Pryor-led victory over the hated Chargers. In his first game back since suffering a concussion in a Monday night game in Denver, Pryor completed his first 10 passes to help the Raiders win while providing a stark contrast to a worthless Matt Flynn.
The question remains, even after an inspiring victory and witnessing Pryor take many vicious hits, whether the Raiders should have pursued Freeman? While it’s possible that the Raiders may have made some efforts behind the scenes, I find it hard to believe that given the option, Freeman wouldn’t have chosen the Raiders over the Vikings. After all the Vikings have had Matt Cassel on the roster as well and given his big game against the Pittsburg Steelers, it would seem fool hardy on Freeman’s part to try to compete with two other players when he could have competed against only one.
The way the situation played out, I’m led to believe the Raiders were just paying lip service to Freeman, all the while being comfortable leaving the key to the franchise in Pryor’s hands. The doubt that the Raiders created could be their salvation in the event Freeman turns out to be a better quarterback then Pryor.
In the past two weeks, my opinion of Freeman has been in a state of free fall after stories emerged off his lack of work ethic and being late to team events. Now while these stories could turn out to be false, I’m just not pleased with the way he handled the adversity that lay in his past. Rather then staying and fighting for and winning back his job, Freeman took the easy way out and decided to punch his ticket out of town.
In contrast to Josh Freeman stands one Terrelle Pryor, a kid who has shown tremendous leadership and character in bidding his time and winning over the locker room. The team seems to be energized by his explosive playmaking ability and his body language suggests someone who is in control of his environment. If Pryor continues to improve at the rate he has done in the last 12 months, there is no question the Raiders have found themselves a franchise quarterback.
Josh Freeman has posted good numbers in his career with the Bucs 80-66 touchdowns to interceptions, 13,534 yards, and a career passer rating of 78.8 in five years. The record that does not speak well for him is his 24-35 win-loss record. While he played well on teams that had horrible defenses, Freeman failed to win over his head coach and in the end that spells disaster for any young player.
After his third year, Freeman’s numbers put him on pace with Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar–after his fourth year, he was on pace with John Elway and Jay Cutler. Given that career projection, I have to say the Bucs gave up on him too soon. It speaks to the new head coach who probably had a difference of opinion with the former Kansas State standout. The stories of missing team meetings and photo sessions speak to Freeman’s indifference to the coach.
Whether it was justified or not, it shows a problem with maturity for such a talented player. Now at just 25, Freeman will get another opportunity to prove himself capable of being a starting quarterback in the National Football League. The fact that it will come with the Vikings, should help Pryor concentrate on becoming better instead of continuously looking over his shoulder.
While Freeman deserves his second chance, Pryor deserves his first. For the Raiders to bring in another potential starter would have been a slap in the face for a hard working and devoted player. At the end of the day, I look at the situation as the Raiders sticking up for their own rather than missing out on another young player.
The Raiders are finally making good decisions and sticking up for their talented young quarterback shows the locker room that in that building its not just business, it’s a family. It’s how Al Davis would have his Raiders. A family.