By Eric Schmidt

At the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie head coach Greg Schiano didn’t sound too convinced that Josh Freeman would be the long term answer at quarterback for the club. The team stated that they would not extend his contract as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal. On Thursday, Schiano changed his tune a bit, claiming that he believes that Freeman can help the Buccaneers achieve their goals.

“Josh Freeman is out quarterback. And I believe that Josh Freeman-with Josh Freeman, we’ll be able to accomplish our goals,” Schiano told reporters at the NFL Combine.

With Schiano at the helm, Freeman achieved some career high numbers. He set personal records for yards passed (4,065), yards per attempt (7.29), attempts (558),and touchdowns (27). However, turnovers were an issue (25 total( and his completion percentage fell off (54.8% vs. 62.8 in 2011).

Schiano had told reporters at the end of the season that the buccaneers had immediate plans to bring in some competition for Freeman in camp this offseason but he clarified his comments on Thursday.

“At the end of the season, the day after the final game, I said probably said something that got more attention than I meant for it to do,” said Schiano when clarifying his comments regarding Freeman.

Freeman has shown flashes of brilliance during his career, but he regresses just as you believe he is getting ready to take his game to the next level. By the mid-season point, Freeman’s game was red hot and only the New England Patriots were scoring more points offensively.  At one six game stretch, Freeman had 16 touchdowns to only three interceptions, going four games in a row without throwing a pick. Then the turnaround came for Freeman, throwing nine interceptions to just two touchdowns in his final three games.

Physically, Freeman has all the tools you want in a quarterback. Large frame, big arm, mobility. Mentally however, he needs to get his game to the next level.

Ideally, you want to attribute his struggles to having a new offensive coordinator, but those nine interceptions in three games came in the final three games of the year, after he already illustrated he was comfortable in the Buccaneers offensive scheme.

Freeman will have to channel his inner Flacco this coming season to see if he can land a new contract with the Buccaneers moving forward. 2013 will be Freeman’s biggest audition in his young career as Buccaneers fans are hoping he can pass the test.

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