With quarterback Jameis Winston moving on from Tampa Bay, here is a look back on the polarizing legacy that he leaves as a Buccaneer.
The Jameis Winston era in Tampa Bay has come to an end. Many predicted this as a likely outcome for this offseason, but it still feels surreal to actually see Jameis leave after five years with the Buccaneers.
Winston leaves an extremely complex legacy in Tampa Bay. The highs were very high and the records will live on for years to come, but the lows were equally apparent and severe.
One thing that will never change is that Jameis Winston will go down as one of the most polarizing players to ever play for the Buccaneers.
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Those that supported Winston and those that were calling for his head after each game were all justified in their views as Jameis gave both sides ammunition for impassioned Twitter debates almost every week.
As previously stated, the highs have been very high.
After coming off of one of the best, if not short, college careers in recent memory, Winston was the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft and the future looked bright for the Buccaneers.
Winston made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, the first Buccaneer quarterback to ever do so. Jameis also broke numerous other franchise records for a rookie and looked primed to be a Buccaneer great.
The second year in the Winston era was more of the same. Jameis broke more franchise records, and he was also the first quarterback in NFL history to finish his first two seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards.
The 2017 and 2018 seasons are where the question marks started to pop up. The lows were very low.
Winston was continuing to break records but the head-scratching interceptions and decision-making that most people attributed to growing pains showed no signs of slowing down.
Jameis’ throws started to become similar to a game of Russian roulette, every few throws was a spin of the chamber and the play could either be spectacular or end in disaster.
On top of the at-times confusing decisions in games, Winston started the 2018 season with a suspension after a groping allegation. Jameis had gone through something similar but more severe while at Florida State with a sexual assault allegation and and many started to wonder about his decision-making off the field as well.
Winston returned from his suspension into a bonafide quarterback controversy, with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing at an extremely high level some weeks and Jameis doing the same in others. This back and forth killed any momentum that the Bucs would generate.
The Buccaneer leadership eventually decided to hand the reins over to Winston fully in 2019 with Bruce Arians as the head coach to see what they had in their fifth-year quarterback going forward.
Winston did not (and did) disappoint in 2019 as the full-time starter. Jameis lit the entire NFL on fire, including his own team at times. Jameis’ stat line in 2019 was an impressive sight to see for many reason. Winston finished with 5,109 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions.
Jameis led the NFL in passing yards this past season while also setting the record for being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season.
If his first four years didn’t polarize the NFL, Winston had fully converted all fans into one camp or the other by the end of 2019.
As previously stated, those on the side saying that Winston should have received an extension are right. A player that led the league in passing and looked on pace to be the NFC offensive player of the year in his most recent season is worth fighting for and investing in.
On the other hand, those who say the team was justified in letting Winston walk are also correct. A starting quarterback in the NFL cannot throw for 30 interceptions in a single season and keep his job.
Much like on the field, while Jameis Winston has struggled in off-field controversies he has mostly turned his image around since his suspension in 2018 and is now a leader that has earned fierce loyalty from his teammates and supporters.
Non-football related, Winston has been a blessing on the Tampa Bay community. Jameis Winston’s Dream Forever Foundation has had a profound impact on children and adolescents throughout the area.
Winston moving on is something that will cause both cheers and tears in Tampa Bay for a long time to come.
Jameis is leaving Tampa Bay as the best quarterback in the history of the franchise by most metrics despite never playing in a playoff game like some of his competition.
While both sides will never see eye to eye on this decision, all fans of the Buccaneers should be able to agree that Jameis Winston was incredibly exciting to watch during his tenure. Very few players in the NFL possess his work ethic and his ability to continue playing with heart and passion despite the score.
Jameis finished his career in Tampa Bay with 19,737 passing yards, 121 touchdowns, and 88 interceptions with a completion percentage of 61.3.
Jameis kept every game interesting and certainly kept fans on the edge of their seats, even if not always for the right reasons. Winston is the type of player where his successes are tied to his shortcomings. It is impossible to mention the good without mentioning the bad and any argument that omits one is inherently wrong.
Regardless of your views on Winston, he certainly brought character and heart to the quarterback position in Tampa. In the end, Tom Brady was too good an option to pass up for the front office and the Glazers. The Tom Brady era is just beginning, but the impacts of the Jameis Winston era will be felt in Tampa Bay for a long time to come.