Wetmore: Temper expectations for Josh Freeman's ability to save season
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - There aren't many recent examples of quarterbacks switching teams midseason and being successful. So new Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman is looking to write his own chapter in the NFL history books.
Vikings fans, though, should temper their expectations for Freeman. Learning the playbook and the idiosyncrasies of each pass-catcher, no matter how similar, is a challenge. Fans should also not expect him to save the Vikings' season; there's nothing he can do to fix the broken secondary, after all. Freeman will try, over the next 11 weeks, to accomplish something that hasn't really been done before.
Consider how rare it is for a decent quarterback to move teams during the season. With how valuable the position is in today's NFL, it takes highly unusual circumstances. Moves like Carson Palmer to the Raiders and Brett Favre to the Jets and then the Vikings are two prominent examples I came up with. But beyond the surface level of discontent prompting a change of scenery, those moves were dissimilar. Freeman's right, he is his own story.
A reporter asked Freeman on Thursday if he knew about the scarcity of a quarterback swapping uniforms midseason and succeeding.
"I wasn't really aware of any of that, but at the same time none of those situations were [the same as] this situation. None of those quarterbacks were me and none of those teams were this team," Freeman said.
"This offense is similar to the offense I was running with different terminology. But then, it's very similar in terminology and concepts to what I ran all during college so I'm fired up about the opportunity and I think that this could be something really great."
That brings us back to the question on the minds of many Vikings fans: can Freeman rescue the Vikings from a lost season?
The short answer is no.
Even head coach Leslie Frazier admitted as much Thursday at Winter Park. The implication: his team has way more problems than whoever is throwing the football.
It's even possible for Freeman to have individual success and the rest of the Vikings' season still going down in flames. Under displaced starter Christian Ponder, the Vikings averaged more than 30 points per game in the first three weeks and went 0-3. Even while scoring points, the team was vulnerable because its defense was so weak.
The quarterback circus distracted from that briefly, but the inept pass defense should be recognized as the primary culprit for this team's shortcomings.
A new quarterback will have little to no impact on opponents averaging more than 31 points per game, as they have through the first five games.
Eventually, it will be an advantage to have a big-armed quarterback to take advantage of eight or nine men in the box, but cramming a playbook is a tough way to learn. More importantly, the Vikings just lost the fine young, hard-hitting safety, Harrison Smith, for at least eight weeks.
So don't evaluate Freeman based on wins and losses. If you do, he's doomed to fail before he sets foot on the field Monday night. Give Freeman a chance to write his own chapter. But make sure you have realistic expectations for how good that chapter can be.