Often, the NFL season is filled with news that seems chaotic at first (chaotic = last night, more on that below as I still need a few minutes to compose myself), but while it’s notable, the item in question is entirely expected. In fact, any other outcome would be the true shock.
That’s what we’re left with after Josh Freeman’s release yesterday: a young quarterback who had lost his way on the field, and he was then smeared by a head coach and a franchise looking to recover some of the cold cash they owed him (they now have to pay him $6.25 million). The first part of that (Freeman sucking) was jarring last year, and in some way was a reflection on Greg Schiano. Yes, Freeman was the guy throwing the ball, and misplacing the ball, and tossing those interceptions. But his abrupt spiral after developing steadily over his first two seasons coincided with the arrival of Schiano, and the departure of offensive coordinator Greg Olson (now with the Raiders).
But hey, he sucked. That’s on him, and at some point, he’s just allowed to suck. Many a quarterback and first-round pick has stuck around longer than Freeman. Example: had he not been needlessly exposed during late August meaningless football, Mark Sanchez would probably be the Jets’ starter right now.
You know, if this football thing doesn’t work out for Freeman, maybe he could be a male model. Or a tiger trainer, whichever.
What made Freeman’s tumble from grace in Tampa unique — one that didn’t include finding a single willing trade partner despite calling every other team — was the NFL world view of Schiano, whose mind is now and forever stuck in college, an environment where he had to be more dictator than mentor, more detention hall babysitter than teacher. The smallest misconduct — like missing a team picture, or giving an interview Schiano didn’t approve of — by Freeman was met with burning ire.
There’s an ongoing investigation into the leaks that made Freeman’s drug test results public, and although the denials are ongoing too, the logical conclusion is that the Bucs were attempting to paint him as misguided and wayward not only in the pocket, but off the field as well. Which is pretty grimy.
What now for Freeman? Well, the Jaguars are the first team out of everyone’s mouth, but realistically they’re too far gone in the wrong direction to care about this year anymore. Freeman would clearly but an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, and that’s the problem. Oakland is a possibility given the instability there following Matt Flynn’s fall to third on the depth chart, but Terrelle Pryor’s unique skillset has given him at least a temporary hold on that starting job.
The most likely landing spots now have broken quarterbacks, which is why we watched the Freeman bowl last night. If Brian Hoyer’s injury is long term, and if the Browns still don’t trust Brandon Weeden (two things that are likely true), Freeman can be brought in to push the starter by default with his mere presence. In Buffalo, he would be simple and desperate depth following E.J. Manuel’s less serious injury, because backing up a rookie with a rookie usually ends in sobs. That’s true of giving Ryan Fitzpatrick extended playing time too, which is why Tennessee is also a possibility.
Or maybe he’ll just go somewhere with an established quarterback as an upgrade behind him, and then sit and learn. Freeman hasn’t done much of that in a few years.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
The night the quarterbacks broke
It was already strange that we were watching a relevant game between the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, one in which the Browns eventually took sole possession of the AFC North for at least a few days with a 37-24 win. Yes, the Browns — a team averaging 20.2 points per game this season even including last night’s boom — scored 37 points in a football game.
Sliding or getting out of bounds sooner to avoid bone crunching is evidently a foreign quarterback art in a league where, although they may not all be Robert Griffin III or Michael Vick, most quarterbacks can run to pick up a first down when needed. First up last night was Brian Hoyer, as he was steamrolled by Kiko Alonso — who was just as menacing last night as he has been throughout the first month of the season — and then later E.J. Manuel decided that getting out of bounds isn’t for him. Manuel’s absence will likely be short term (if there’s one at all), but the word on Hoyer is, well, not a good word at all.
Browns are concerned QB Brian Hoyer tore his ACL last night but will not know for until he undergoes an MRI today.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 4, 2013
The result of that damage last night was the aforementioned Freeman bowl, with the jettisoned Bucs quarterback at least widening the possibilities for his future employment. Nothing changed with Brandon Weeden when he relieved Hoyer. He still as a booming arm, which enabled him to connect deep several times, most notably in the third quarter during a touchdown drive with Greg Little on a high arching and sailing 47 yarder, before a similar 37-yard throw to Josh Gordon in the end zone. But he’s still inaccurate, completing only 54.1 percent of his passes, and he holds onto the ball far too long while being maddeningly indecisive in the pocket.
That resulted in three sacks, and many more hurried throws. For fantasy footballing, Weeden’s presence hurts the output of both Gordon and Jordan Cameron. The latter finished with only 36 receiving yards last night after averaging 90 yards per game over the first four weeks.
The hurt didn’t stop there either. For the Bills, Stevie Jonson left with a back injury, and T.J. Graham was sidelined after two massive hits. Then there’s Desmond Bryant, a quality bargain signing and a key piece of a very effective Browns fantasy defense who left due to shortness of breath.
NFL voodoo works in wicked ways, and Thursday two fanbases desperate for a sniff of success watched their quarterbacks crumble. At least the Browns have a first-round pick to fall back on, albeit a horribly underwhelming one. The Bills have undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel for now, he of the really easy internet joke.
Travis Benjamin is fast
Yes, he’s pretty nimble. Travis Benjamin set a new Browns franchise record with 179 total punt return yards last night on seven attempts. That included a 57 yarder to set up the Browns’ first field goal, and then shortly after he ran 79 yards until he couldn’t run anymore.
(Ed. note: the Internet was only able to provide me with this video. Word to the wise for bros stealing highlights while recording their television: your ceiling fan still belongs in the 70′s.)
Most Cleveland photobomb ever?
Really, you have to expect a guy in a sanitation uniform to photobomb a man holding a baby pic.twitter.com/twaLI2c6rf
— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) October 4, 2013
Matt Millen actually wore this
I’m a sucker for sports documentaries, and with a few exceptions have devoured the ESPN 30 for 30 series. Ditto with NFL Network’s “A Football Life”, but I think the series may have already exhausted itself.
A few weeks ago the subject was Darrelle Revis, a highly talented but active player who is still very much living his football life in the seventh year of his career, and he’s all of 28 years old. Then somehow it was deemed a good idea to follow up a look at the legend that is Steve Sabol with…Matt Millen, the man who nearly buried the Detroit Lions forever.
Surely it’s all an elaborate long con of some kind. Judging by his attire, Millen is in on it…
Thing is, the definitive Millen documentary has already been made.