In one of the least guarded secrets of the last few months, the Bucs and Jameis Winston are breaking up after five up and down years. The first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft has certainly never been vanilla in his time in Tampa Bay, but will he be missed.
With the signing of Tom Brady, it was inevitable that Winston would be gone sooner rather than later, although an option to keep him as the back up doesn’t look to have been overly considered. While Winston clearly has had some limitations over the years, it seems somewhat premature to completely cut bait on him.
Jameis Winston polarized the fan base
The five-year veteran posted just one winning season in a Bucs uniform back in 2016. At the time it seemed like a good progression year as his accuracy jumped 2 points, and his TD rate increased. However, his turnover rate also increased to over 3% and this was to become the defining element of Jameis Winstons’ time as a Buccaneer.
With 88 interceptions in his five seasons, Winston had a turnover rate of 3.5% which puts him in the class of guys of Jay Cutler. So frequent were his interceptions, that he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same NFL season.
2019 could’ve been the start of the turnaround for Winston. With the Bucs picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, and new Head Coach Bruce Arians is known for slinging the ball and the ‘no risk it, no biscuit’ philosophy, things seemed to be trending in Winston’s favor.
After a suspension in 2017, and being benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2018, Arians was placing all his faith in Winston. Unfortunately, Winston couldn’t eradicate the errors from his game with nine multi-interception games, and five games with 3+ picks. With the Bucs going 3-6 when Winston through more than one pick, it was clear that he was holding the team back.
PFF gave Winston a passing grade of 66.7 for the 2019 campaign, the lowest of his career. Ranking him 29th in the NFL in 2019, following 26th in 2018, and 15th in 2017. His lack of developmental progress in the turnover department proved to be very costly.
For all the bad there was always the good. 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns saw the Bucs offense rank third in the league on yards, with the number one passing attack, and fourth on points. In the end, the Bucs decided the negatives outweighed the positive.
While Tom Brady clearly offers a better history of winning with six Super Bowl rings to his name, this now plants the Bucs in win-now mode. Brady likely has two or three years max left in his arm. While Winston had a lot of flaws in his game, keeping him around to learn from Brady would’ve been a good option.
In the end, the separation has happened and Jameis Winston will look for another team on which to develop the final pieces of his puzzle. The Bucs will play under arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and begin succession planning for when he retires.
Who knows, maybe one day Jameis Winston will return a better, more rounded player. There is no questioning the arm talent that Winston has, now all he needs to do is improve the mental, decision making side and he could become special.
Maybe a few years as a backup is exactly what Jameis Winston needs.