This article originally appeared in the September 29th, 2010 issue of Patriots Football Weekly.
CBSSports.com’s Freeman Tweets It Like It Is
By Bruce Allen
Ask a Patriots fan who they like as a national sports columnist, and I don’t think Mike Freeman would be near the top of that list.
Come to think of it, I really don’t know who that honor would go to, but I do know it would not be Freeman, who has made a name for himself as a contrarian and pot-stirrer over the course of his career, most recently at his current employer, CBSSports.com.
In the past year, Freeman has written two columns highly critical of Patriots receiver Randy Moss, who has been a frequent target of Freeman’s criticism over the course of his career. Last season, Freeman claimed to have charted every Moss play during the game against the Atlanta Falcons, and claimed that on “a significant number of them” Moss didn’t put forth any effort. Freeman called Moss “one of the laziest” receivers in the NFL.
Following the opening game of this season, after Moss spoke about not having a new contract with the Patriots and wishing to remain in New England, Freeman weighed in again on Moss. He first acknowledged that the last time he wrote about Moss, the feedback from this region wasn’t positive. “It seemed the entire New England area wanted to Thelma-and-Louise me off a cliff.” he wrote, and added “Patriots fans sent me some of the nastier e-mails I’ve ever gotten. The New England organization was furious with me. When I covered a Patriots game the following week a close writer friend said he couldn’t talk to me in front of Patriots officials for fear of retribution to him. He was serious.”
His column then went on to talk about how far the Patriots go to protect and baby Moss, and that he repaid them by throwing them under the bus. He predicted that Moss will go into a shell at some point this season.
When I approached Freeman about being interviewed for this piece, he was a little wary of PFW’s association with the Patriots, but agreed to answer a few questions via Twitter direct message, joking “it’ll be your first Twitter interview.” And so it is. (If you’re so inclined, you can follow Freeman at @realfreemancbs.)
Prior to coming to CBS, Freeman had worked for some of the biggest names in the newspaper business, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Boston Globe and Florida Times-Union.
After a couple of back and forths, (in one of which he stated that college fans were much more brutal to him overall than Patriots fans were.) Freeman knew what I wanted to talk about “You’re circling too much. Do this Muay Thai style, not MMA style. Come right at me. I know you want to ask about Moss.”
OK, So I did.
Just why does he have such a problem with Moss, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game? “Many longtime NFL writers outside of (New England) are huge admirers of his talents and not-so-huge admirers of his antics.” Freeman then added “I’ve covered the sport for 20 years and never seen a guy with so much ability simply waste it. He could have been better than Jerry Rice.”
Freeman noted that in both of Moss’ previous NFL stops, things got ugly at the end. Is there the potential for the same thing to happen here in New England, or can the presence of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady stop that from happening? “I’m not sure anyone can control Randy Moss but if anyone can, it’s Belichick.” Freeman says. He then adds “He’s underrated in how he motivates players.”
The rest of our conversation may come as a surprise to those of you who have a certain image of Freeman. He was very complimentary of Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.
“Belichick is the best coach in the history of the NFL.” He declared. “I’ve written that and stick by it and I think the Spygate stuff was bull—-.”
Whoa. A national media member making that statement on the record? Amazing. So what exactly was, um, “bull” about it? “The reaction to it. Anyone who covers the NFL knows every team does what Belichick did. Every team.”
You’ve heard fellow coaches such a Jimmy Johnson make that statement, but a member of the media? You’re not going to find many, at least on a national level that are willing to say that.
Freeman also said “I admire Belichick’s intellect and how he appreciates and respects NFL history.” He then committed another act of treason to his fellow media members: “I don’t care that he can be crusty with the media.”
Are you warming up to this guy yet? What are his feelings on ownership?
“I also think Kraft is as good an owner as I’ve seen. What he’s done to transform that organization (and stadium) is amazing.”
Freeman has a unique perspective on the transformation here in New England. He was an intern at the Boston Globe, and covered the Patriots way back in the early 1990’s, prior to the Kraft family buying the franchise. He remembers what the team and stadium were like at that time.
“There are only a few organizations in sports history that have come from the depths like (the) Pats. It’s a testament to Kraft and Belichick.”
Coming back to the current edition of the Patriots, it is hard to find a consensus on what they are, and how good can they been. Freeman told me that the “National perception is playoff team” but that he had slightly higher expectations for this year.
“My title game prediction is Baltimore-NE. You have a healthy Brady, you have a chance.”
And that is even with Randy Moss.