Bucs, New Orleans Saints Game Showdown Between Coach Brees, Student Josh Freeman
Written by  // Thursday, 30 December 2010 09:45 //

Ed Staton"That's all we're thinking about this week," said Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris as his players focused solely on trying to beat the Saints on Sunday in the Superdome in the regular-season finale.

While a win over the Saints won't necessarily guarantee a wild-card berth, a loss to the Saints would erase any chance of the Buccaneers (9-6) earning a spot over Packers or the Giants.

The Bucs kept their playoff hopes alive with a 38-15 victory over Seattle, clinching a winning record after going 3-13 in their first season under the 34-year-old coach. With Sunday's victory over the Seahawks, the Bucs became the first team since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970 to start 10 or more rookies during the course of a non-strike season and finish with a winning record.

Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw for a career-high five touchdowns and had a single-game 144.2 passer rating against the Seahawks. The 22-year-old has 23 TD passes vs. six interceptions and has led five fourth-quarter comebacks this season.

Drew Brees mentored Freeman this summer and it's paying off for Freeman, who was good as a starter as a rookie last season, but Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson wanted his quarterback to be great.

Olson remembered coaching Brees in college when Greg was Purdue's quarterback coach. He noticed the characteristics that helped Brees become a great college and NFL player. He believed Freeman showed traces of Brees' greatness last season and he hoped he could evolve similarly. Olson arranged for Brees to work with Freeman last summer to help the quarterback improve. The results will be on display as the Saints host the Bucs on Sunday.

"I just felt like with Freeman's makeup that he had a chance to be a special player," said Olson. "Drew is a special player. The work ethic, the intelligence and all those things that Drew has, I wanted to give Freeman a chance to introduce himself to the guy and get to know him. Maybe Drew could share with him experiences of being a quarterback and also let him know what his routine is like through this season and the offseason.

“How does he manage his time,how is his time spent, to just be around him, to be around a top quarterback and see how they operate."

Olson called Brees and asked if he would help mentor his quarterback. He knew there was a possibility Brees would say no, especially considering the Saints and Bucs are NFC South rivals.

Instead, Brees willingly agreed to take Freeman under his wing. "I invite that just  because guys who want to get better, guys who want to be the best, guys who care about the game, those are all good things," said Brees. "You want to help those types of guys. I was a young player once, and I remember seeking out veteran players to ask for advice and try to get words of wisdom and anything that would help me develop my game.

"The fact that he's in our division and I've got to face him twice a year, that makes it kind of interesting, but it's not like we were trading secrets. We just worked out together, watched the way we worked and pushed each other a little bit. In the end, it made us both better."

Brees checked with Saints coach Sean Payton, who fully supported his quarterback's decision.

"Drew is one of those guys that probably, if anyone was interested in working with him and made the effort to spend time with him that he would be available," said Payton.  Brees agreed to work with Freeman, but didn't like Olson's idea of them working out in Tampa. Brees was uncomfortable with the idea of working out at Tampa.

Instead, Freeman was invited to work out with Brees  and other quarterbacks he mentors in San Diego, where Brees owns a home and  where he spends parts of his offseasons,

They worked out for a week, and even though their time  together was limited, Freeman learned several things from Brees.

"Just his work ethic and his intensity," said Freeman. "Even though it was the summer and the offseason, he still is getting r after it and still going to work every day. That is something I'm trying to incorporate in my game,and we did a lot of work this offseason and will continue that year after year,year in and year out

"Even though you've played for so long and had the success he had coming off a Super Bowl, he still is out there working in the summer. The aura around that guy, he just has an aura of confidence. He's just out there working hard, and you can tell that he's a guy working to be successful."

Olson said "You can coach it and coach it and talk about it, but it's just good to her it from another player and I wanted to make sure he heard it from Drew."

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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