TAMPA — Josh Freeman isn't the first young quarterback who couldn't sustain initial success, and he won't be the last.
Recent NFL history is littered with instances of quarterbacks who flamed out after playing with distinction early in their careers. At the age of 25, Tampa Bay's one-time “franchise” quarterback still has ample time to resurrect himself with another franchise.
Freeman's startling regression from a stellar 2010 season places him in some intriguing company. Here are some other recent examples:
No. 5 overall pick, Jets, 2009
Sanchez became only the fourth rookie quarterback to win his first postseason game as the Jets beat the Bengals. A week later, he guided New York past San Diego to reach the AFC title game, where the Jets led the Colts by 11 points before falling short.
The next season, the Jets went 11-5 before beating Indianapolis and New England to advance to the conference championship game again. Sanchez played well in a 24-19 loss to Pittsburgh, but his career nosedived in the past three years.
In 2011, Sanchez was ripped by anonymous teammates who alleged he had poor work habits. Last December, he was benched in the third quarter of a game against Arizona.
Sanchez now finds himself nursing a right shoulder injury. While he heals, rookie Geno Smith has led New York to a 2-1 record, exciting the fan base with his skills and charisma.
Not long ago, Sanchez was “the guy.” Now, he's the other guy.
Fourth-round pick, Packers, 1999
Once Brooks was traded to New Orleans the following year, he took off quickly, replacing the injured Jeff Blake and beating the defending Super Bowl champion Rams 31-24 on the road. In a rematch in the playoffs, Brooks fired four touchdown passes against St. Louis in a 31-28 triumph.
In 2001, his first full year as a starter, Brooks threw for 3,832 yards and 26 touchdowns. He combined to throw 51 scoring passes in his next two seasons, but by 2005, he was replaced by journeyman Todd Bouman late in the year,
Brooks signed with Oakland in 2006. In his first game with the silver and black, he was sacked nine times by San Diego in a 27-0 setback.
It's easy to forget the numbers Brooks put up with the Saints, but New Orleans fans remember the 16 game-winning drives he led in the fourth quarter or overtime before he was run out of town.
No. 11 overall pick, Vikings, 1999
Like Freeman, Culpepper was a big man with surprising mobility.
He wasted little time establishing himself as a dynamic force under center, throwing for 3,937 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2000 while leading Minnesota to an 11-5 mark. In 2004 he was even better, throwing 39 scoring passes and leading the NFL with 379 completions and 4,717 passing yards.
But just when it appeared Culpepper was building a Hall of Fame career, he fell apart. By the time he suffered a serious knee injury midway through the 2005 season, Culpepper was a turnover machine with 12 interceptions and five fumbles.
In his last five NFL seasons, Culpepper went 5-22 as he traveled from Minnesota to Miami, Oakland and Detroit in search of his lost mojo.