Josh Freeman needs to be himself

The question came during a radio chat with WDAE’s Tom Krasniqi on Monday evening.

“Will Josh Freeman be a Buccaneer in 2014?’’ Krasniqi asked me.

My answer was yes, but a lot of things have to go right for that to come true. Freeman, who is headed into the final year of his contract, needs to play at a high level consistently to become the first true franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay history.

Freeman has played very well in spurts before. But he’s also had some four-interception games.

That’s why coach Greg Schiano didn’t give Freeman a ringing endorsement at the end of last season. That’s why the Bucs used a third-round draft pick on quarterback Mike Glennon.

Those are the kind of things that can put excessive pressure on a young quarterback. Freeman hasn’t always responded well to pressure. There have been times when he’s looked anxious and appeared to be trying to do too much and that’s led to mistakes.

Having Glennon and Schiano looking over his shoulder might seem like a formula for disaster. There even have been reports that Schiano isn’t high on Freeman because he doesn’t think the quarterback is a fire-in-the-belly kind of guy.

There’s one way for Freeman to handle all this successfully. He needs to ignore the pressure, set aside the anxiety and go out and relax and have fun.

There is no question Freeman has the physical tools to be a very good quarterback. If he can stop playing with the weight of a franchise on his shoulders, he can become a franchise quarterback.

The Bucs have a very good offensive line, a great running back in Doug Martin and a pair of solid receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Freeman doesn’t need to do it all by himself and he doesn’t need to try to be someone he’s not to try to satisfy Schiano.

If Freeman can just go out and be himself – for a change – he’ll be just fine and Tampa Bay will have its quarterback for the long term.