Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For Jameis Winston, stat line doesn’t tell entire story


Quarterback A: 13/16, 209 passing yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions.

Quarterback B: 16/33, 210 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions.

Based on these stat lines, which signal caller had the better game? Quarterback A and it’s not even close, right?

Stats are a double-edged sword, especially for a quarterback. When they are good, the player gets rewarded with praise and pay. When they are bad, the player is the first one to receive blame and shown the door by ownership and the fan base.

One day after witnessing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 42-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans in their season opener, there’s heaps of acclaim being thrown on Marcus Mariota and rightfully so. But, when people discuss his counterpart, Jameis Winston, there’s going to be a lot of talk about how he underperformed, looked awful and wait for it…was the wrong pick by the Bucs in this year’s draft.

However, if that touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson late in the 4th quarter wasn’t overturned for offensive pass interference, Winston would’ve become the fourth quarterback, joining Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly and Mariota, since 1960 to throw for three touchdowns in their debut. But that’s a moot point at this moment.

The NFL is a team sport where it only takes one player’s mistake to hurt the entire team. On numerous occasions, there was one member of the offensive line or another that resembled something of a turnstile, causing the pocket to quickly close in on Winston.

Winston rushed the ball six times, four more than Mariota, on Sunday. When the former Seminoles signal caller entered the draft, he was classified as a pocket passer, however, the state of the offensive line has turned him into a mobile quarterback. Even his first NFL touchdown required him to scramble.

How can a quarterback step up in the pocket for a strong, accurate throw when he’s forced to throw off his back foot?

Over time, the pressure and hits will get into a quarterback’s head, especially for a rookie like Winston, causing him to think he has less time to sling it than he actually does. When a QB starts to become mentally flustered, errant passes are attempted and ill-advised decisions are made.

As much as Jameis swears that he’s unflappable under pressure, if you can’t trust your offensive line to keep you upright, it creates a domino effect. Analysts will look at the stat line and immediately say Winston struggled, but his success is predicated on the offensive line holding up or offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter drawing up a game plan which gets the ball out quicker to counteract the ineffectiveness of the O-line.

Then, there’s the 12 penalties. 12! A majority of them were called on the offensive line. This same thing happened in their preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bucs were in far too many third-and-long situations. A number of them were over 10 yards and one was 3rd and 42! That’s inexcusable. An NFL team cannot expect their rookie quarterback to continuously get them out of long-yardage situations.

The same goes for any quarterback, whether it’s Tom Brady or Mariota. If you give your signal caller a manageable third down situation, there’s a higher probability of conversion.

Of course, Winston isn’t free from blame. For further proof, just look at his first NFL pass attempt. However, if the Bucs want to turn it around this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, they need to avoid the reckless and costly penalties and either give Winston a cleaner pocket or devise a game plan better suited for the offensive line’s struggles.

Winston’s stat line was far from great, but it ultimately comes down to Jameis asking his offensive line…

If they can’t do that, it’s going to a looooooooong 2015 season.

Next: Jameis Winston is the savior but he's also human