The Buccaneers and Jameis Winston each needed a change, for better or worse.
At some point, the reporters and pundits are going to realize that during Jameis Winston’s five-year tenure with the Buccaneers, all the tools were there to get into the playoffs. The fact that it didn’t happen is more reflective of Winston’s play at quarterback than it was about coaching or additional players.
Take a look at Winston’s play at Florida State University. Especially his second season, after he was flush and full from having pinched the Heisman Trophy as a freshman. Knowing Winston now, how much did that influence his play in year two?
It influenced it a ton. How many games did they play that year where they fell behind and needed a Herculean effort by Jameis Winston to get the ‘Noles back on the right side of the scoreboard.
Too many. Way too many. And as often as not, they were in those situations because of mistakes made by their quarterback.
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They finished the season as well as they could at 13-1, but the critical indicator was his TD to INT ratio. That season he tossed 25 TD passes, but he also had 18 picks. Perhaps the Buccaneers were enamored with his heroic actions and stopped accounting for the bad plays.
In college, a player like Winston can bring a team from the depths for a victory fairly often. But, when you get to the National Football League, every player on the other side of the ball has some kind of accolade. They were all everything, defensive player of the year, or any of many other post-season awards that players tend to pick up along the way, like the Heisman.
Compare the two seasons, and it almost seems like there were two different quarterbacks. The scouts, no doubt, felt the player from season one, the Heisman Trophy winner, was the one that they were getting ready to spend draft pick numero uno on. All glossy-eyed, they interviewed, and they checked, and they downplayed some of his antics.
These indicators, apparently, didn’t make a difference, as the team’s head shed deliberated over Winston. These, in truth, weren’t isolated incidents. And yet, they rolled the dice.
Jameis Winston had the pieces to win
There was no reason why the Buccaneers didn’t make the playoffs in any of the five years Winston was their quarterback. Especially the last two seasons. Sure, some of the blame goes to the kicking game and a horrific defense, but it wasn’t all about missed kick opportunities.
The power of the pick-six haunted Winston. It struck in the very first pro game he played. And, it struck in the first game of his final season, and on the first play in overtime of the final game of that season.
Imagine, if you will, the level of frustration Bruce Arians must have been going through. He knew what he had with that team, and he also knew what he had in his quarterback. Winston has undeniable talent, but his time was coming to an end in Tampa.
In the end, it wasn’t a question of what to do with Jameis Winston. The question was who can we bring in that can lead this team to nirvana, SB LV. Amazingly enough, that player turned out to be Tom Brady. It really isn’t fair to make any comparisons between Winston and Brady. Winston has a lot of maturing to do in order to get near the level Brady is at, but the chances are still there for him to grow into the player that scouts saw leading into the draft several years ago.
Perhaps over the past year, his humbling experience in New Orleans will do him some good. The system is there, the coaching staff is the right one for him to work with, and now, it’s up to Winston to figure out how to play quarterback at the professional level.