When Bruce Arians took the job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he made it blatantly obvious that Jameis Winston was a major reason why he came.
Furthermore, he stated that it was Winston’s team, undoubtedly.
Now, one year later, things do not look as obvious for Arians as far as his quarterback of the future is concerned. The head coach stated in a press conference after the season that if the Bucs could win with Winston, they could win with another quarterback as well.
Those were uncharacteristically harsh words in the direction of his quarterback by Arians, who had been praising him throughout the year, even after questionable performances.
Of course, this might as well be a part of Arians’ poker game in regards to keeping Winston’s price tag low. However, as of now, this is pure speculation.
Needless to say, there are plenty of Buccaneers fans who would like to see Winston walk the plank.
On the other hand, though, Winston also has lots of supporters left who want to see the former Seminole under center for at least one more year under Arians.
So the big question surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason is: “Should the Bucs stick with Winston?”
What Speaks Against Winston
Obviously, turnovers are a big problem. Granted, Winston had three different head coaches in his short stint with the Bucs so far. Moreover, a lot of the picks certainly were not his fault, but that can be said for a big chunk of pretty much every quarterback’s interceptions. Beyond that, Arians’ ‘No risk it no biscuit’ approach is historically relatively turnover-prone.
However, despite all of that, Winston’s 88 interceptions in five years are just too many to handle. If he has a future in Tampa Bay, he simply needs to find a way to take care of the football better.
Then, of course, there are Winston’s off-the-field issues. The Uber incident, as well as multiple incidents in college, certainly are not what NFL coaches and general managers are looking for in the leader of their franchise. Yet, the former Seminole has been respectably clean since the Uber incident in March 2016.
What Speaks in Favor of Winston
Without a doubt, there are tons of things that make you want to keep Winston a Buccaneer in 2020 and longer.
Being one of only eight quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards is a feat you simply do not accomplish if you are not a highly talented passer. Winston passed for 5,109 in 2019 and is the only quarterback with back-to-back 450-yard games. Beyond that, his 121 touchdowns in that time span are highly respectable and put him right on pace with almost every legendary quarterback.
Winston (72 games): 121 TDs, 88 INTs, 19,737 passing yds, 274 YPG
Manning (80 games): 138 TDs, 100 INTs, 20,518 passing yards, 257.4 YPG
Favre (65 games): 108 TDs, 66 INTs, 14,825 passing yards, 246.2 YPG
Roethlisberger (72 games): 101 TDs, 69 INTs, 14,974 passing yds, 212.3 YPG
As far as his stats are concerned, Winston, despite his 30 interceptions in 2019, is still on pace with most legendary quarterbacks.
In addition to that, Winston’s work ethic is absolutely unheard of. He is usually the first player to show up at practice and the last one to leave the facility.
Another plus for Winston is his durability. He is tough, plays through injuries and he does so very well. For instance, his back to back 450+ yard performances came when he had a broken thumb, which he played with the last few games of the season. According to multiple reports (including CBS), Winston wore a cast after the season. This just proves how severe the injury must have been. Nonetheless, he still played through it for many weeks in basically “meaningless” games for the Buccaneers.
Progress To Be Expected In Second Year Under Arians
With one year under his belt in Arians’ system, the only way to go for a 26-year old quarterback is up. Naturally, if the nucleus of the offense, especially Winston, stays in Tampa, the Bucs offense should be a force to be reckoned with.
When Arians took the job with the Cardinals, for instance, Carson Palmer progressed from 24 TDs/22 INTs to 35 TDs/11 INTs in his first two full seasons with the Cardinals.
What Other Options Do The Bucs Have?
There are a few reports out there stating that Arians is highly interested in Teddy Bridgewater. Would he, in his first year on a new team under Arians’ offense, be an upgrade over Winston? Probably not. Philip Rivers? Nope! Brees or Mariota? Not very likely. The same goes for any free-agent quarterback who would be put in a whole new offense and situation. The fact that Winston has already played a season for Arians and Leftwich is highly valuable in regards to keeping him in Tampa.
The last option would be drafting a quarterback and starting over. This is highly unlikely considering that Arians is definitely in a win-now mode. He is not looking to rebuild.
Consequently, if Arians and the Buccaneers are looking for immediate success, Winston seems to be the safest bet.