Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston: College star to uncertain NFL future

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are intrinsically linked as the first two picks of the 2015 NFL draft. Both were expected to bring success the Buccaneers and Titans respectively.

However, neither player has really excelled beyond these expectations, and both teams face challenging decisions whether to reward each player with lucrative new contract extensions. The following articles will examine the challenges for each player in the upcoming season, but also identify the opportunities for both players to earn their new deals.

Part 1: Jameis Winston

The selection of Florida State QB Jameis Winston was the unanimous first pick from the draft experts in 2015. Daniel Jeremiah labelled Winston as ‘Pro Ready’ before the draft, highlighting his superb arm strength and ball placement skills. While many were taken aback by some pressing character concerns, few doubted his skills. Tampa raced up to the board to select Winston, who skipped the draft event to celebrate with his family. Since then Winston has been erratic as a signal caller, mixing high quality play with boneheaded decision making.

Winston reminds me of me when I play Madden, impatiently trying to get as many yards as possible in the least amount of throws.

He is a truly fun player to watch, a human highlight reel capable of remarkable plays (search Winston scramble against Chicago for my favourite play in the past five seasons) alongside questionable decision-making moves which cause you to scratch your head.

He is surprisingly young, a year younger than Carson Wentz and only a year older than Baker Mayfield.

In essence, while there is a player there, he lacks this consistency of fellow QB prospects, such as Wentz, Mahomes and Watson who look destined to achieve lucrative contracts with their franchises. The question that Tampa must ask is whether Winston is their franchise QB, or whether they think a better player is out there.

The turnover problem

As I have previously mentioned, Winston plays the position in a wild way, attempting to gain yardage expansively.


Much of Winston’s play style could be critiqued to be because of the ultra-aggressive mentality of the previous Bucs coaching regime. In Dirk Koetter’s offence, Winston was expected to throw a great deal more than other quarterbacks, posting a yearly YPG average of 252.6, 255.6, 269.5 and 272.0. The added throws have consequently aided Winstons above average number of turnovers, however it could be questioned that the sheer number of interceptions and fumbles may be worrisome.

2018 season: 14 interceptions and 7 fumbles in 11 games (9 games started)

2017 season: 11 interceptions and 15 fumbles in 13 games

2016 season: 18 interceptions and 10 fumbles in 16 games

2015 season: 15 interceptions and 6 fumbles in 16 games

The amount of turnovers is alarming, and Winston often struggles to keep hold of the ball. He had a poor start to the season and was erratic with his throws. His four interceptions against the Bengals last year led to his benching for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Many thought this may have been the end of Winson’s Tampa tenure, but he regained his place at the tail end and showed marked improvement towards the end of the season.

Last 7 Games of 2018 season:  13 Touchdowns, 4 Interceptions, 1,811 yards, QBR 100.1.

His development in the second half of the season cemented his position as the starting QB and he enters this year without too much competition. The improvement in his game seems to indicate that he works best with when facing adversity. Bucs fans must be hopeful that he is able to recreate this mentality throughout this important season.

Bruce Arians

Arians has returned from a brief spell of retirement.

The former Cardinals HC campaigned heavily for the Browns job, and eventually settled for the opportunity to lead Tampa. Much has been made of the impact of Arians upon Winston, due to his reputation for significantly improving QBs.

Arians claimed on the Rich Eisen show at the beginning of the year that Winston had the ability to win it all for Tampa. In addition, he praised his work ethic and ambition to be the team’s leader.

Arians’ tutelage is extremely respected in the NFL world, and much is expected of Winston in the upcoming season. Without significant improvements in Winston’s game, further questions will be asked regarding if he warrants a contract which will be one of the largest in the sport. There are exciting prospects due to enter the NFL within the next few years, and various teams are looking ahead to future drafts.

Arians was devastated to not make the Super Bowl with the Cardinals in 2016, and sees the Tampa job as his last shot at reaching the big game as a HC. While he must see Winston as the best opportunity to get there, the attraction of drafting a Trevor Lawrence or Justin Herbert may sway Arians attention elsewhere.

Alas for the present time Arians is all in on working with Jameis. Alongside his OC Bryon Leftwich, Arians will develop a scheme to incorporate the arm strength of Winston, attempting to cut out the errors in his play. Arians enjoys an extensive passing game, so a continued success of the excellent Mike Evans should be expected. Another player expected to assist is the highly touted TE OJ Howard.

The loss of Adam Humphries, Winston’s fail safe in the past few seasons, may hurt. Humphries caught 76 passes for 816 yards last year, so is a loss for the Bucs offence.

In response, Chris Godwin should see an increased amount of time playing in the slot and is capable of continuing his improvement. Greg Auman of The Athletic reported earlier this year that Arians expects Godwin to be an every-down receiver, and has the potential to be as good as Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald. This kind of praise is an extreme seal of approval upon Godwin. Arians offence rejuvenated Fitzgerald into a slot receiver while in Arizona, so Godwin has every chance to impress. Tampa has every chance to be an exciting offence this year, therefore it will be interesting to see if Winston is worthy enough to lead the charge.

2019 season

It is curious to examine the competition facing the Bucs this season. The NFC South has the powerhouse Saints for company, alongside two other recent NFC Champions in the Falcons and Panthers.

So, Winston will be required to excel as a QB for the Bucs to reach the playoffs. His offence looks formidable on paper, thus if Winston is not able to develop the Bucs into a top 10 offence serious questions will be asked of his ability.

The (potentially deserved) media narrative is that Winston shows immaturity and may not warrant a big contract extension. If Winston shows electric numbers and removes the excessive turnover problem from his game, his contract demands will most likely exceed the recent contracts signed by Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo.

If his play leads to another benching, I believe Tampa will let Winston walk in the spring, moving onto another signal caller. The tricky aspect of Tampa’s decision making is if Winston has an adequate season, and they are forced to decide whether to pay him like a franchise QB, or potentially cause a rift by placing the franchise tag on him.

Verdict

It is clear that the Tampa front office want to wait and see. Other QB’s such as Dak Prescott may sign long-term contracts before Winston, but the extra time to examine Winston may prove valuable in the long run. Bruce Arians has the ability to strengthen Winston’s game and I am excited to see what is next for one of the most interesting players in the past decade.

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