Having essentially exhausted all other options at the quarterback position, the Minnesota Vikings decided to make a change today by announcing that Josh Freeman will start Week 7's game under center against the New York Giants, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.
The Vikings signed Freeman on Oct. 6, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and most figured that it was only a matter of time before he usurped the likes of Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier gave some insight into the decision, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
I like the things that he's done in his career, along with what he's done since he arrived here with our football team.
The time that he's put in, how well he's adapted to our system, and I like his work ethic. He's done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity—which is something we had in mind when we acquired him. We think now is the time.
Freeman himself told reporters he'd be ready to go come Sunday (per Pelissero):
It wasn't long ago that Freeman was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' franchise quarterback, but things soured quickly. Freeman looked great early last season, ending the year with more than 4,000 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, but his late-season struggles carried into 2013.
Freeman was awful over Tampa's first three games, and he was a big reason for their 0-3 start. He completed less than 46 percent of his passes for 571 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions with Tampa this season, which prompted head coach Greg Schiano to go in a different direction.
Not only did Schiano name rookie Mike Glennon the starter, but Freeman was also banished to the press box. This inevitably led to Freeman's release after the team was unable to trade him, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
While there may not have been any trade interest in Freeman after the Bucs tipped their hand, Freeman was highly sought after in free agency before the Vikes ultimately secured him. An open path to the starting job had to figure into Freeman's decision to sign with Minnesota, and that choice is already paying dividends.
Not only is Freeman playing to get the Vikings back in business, but he is also playing for a new contract. Whether it's with Minnesota or some other team, Freeman would obviously like to ink a long-term deal this offseason. Provided Freeman puts the end of his Tampa Bay tenure behind him and returns to what made him a first-round pick in 2009, he has a chance to succeed.
While Freeman's departure from the Bucs isn't particularly shocking in retrospect due to the fact that Schiano was trying to save his job (and there were obviously some deep-rooted issues), it's quite rare for a team to move on from a highly touted signal-caller with such swiftness.
Freeman was challenging as a potential Pro Bowler last season, but things went downhill in the final month. He threw nine interceptions over the final three games, and the Bucs finished the year on a 1-5 run, which dashed their playoff hopes.
Perhaps Freeman lost his confidence in Tampa, but he absolutely must regain it in order to thrive with the Vikings. Many people forget that Minnesota made the playoffs last season, and while running back Adrian Peterson obviously had almost everything to do with that, Freeman can possibly add another dimension to the team that it didn't possess with Ponder at the helm in 2012.
Freeman has prototypical size at 6'6", 240 pounds, and he also has a rocket arm to go along with it. Accuracy tends to be a problem for him at times, but he should be able to utilize receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson far better than his predecessors have.
This is a no-risk gamble from Minnesota's perspective, as Freeman could potentially be a long-term answer. Even if he isn't, the investment is minimal in terms of time and money, and it isn't as if either Ponder or Cassel were getting the job done anyway. The Vikings are just 1-4 on the year.
Freeman is likely to have a longer leash in Minnesota than he did in Tampa Bay as he continues to absorb the playbook and create relationships with his teammates, but the Vikings need some production from the quarterback position as soon as possible or else this season will become a lost cause.
There's no better time or place for him to start and make a good impression than his Vikings debut on Monday Night Football against a Giants defense that ranks last place in points allowed per game.
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