Jameis Winston is quite possibly the most polarizing athlete in the history of Tampa Bay sports. Drafted number one overall he has been defended and chastised since his name was called first in the draft.
A lot of the hate is simply carried over from his college days. A good section of the Buccaneers fanbase are also fans of two of the Florida college teams that Winston dominated in his two years at FSU. Then there are the ones that point to his off-field issues in college as the reason for their disdain for the 25-year-old quarterback. Then there are some who just don’t like his gunslinger mentality.
Some of those reasons are validated, some are just silly. I’ll let you decide which is which. One thing that can’t be denied is Winston’s love for the team, and more importantly the community. His passion for the game is unrivaled, his ability to make a mistake and move on from it is something every head coach wants to see in their quarterback.
Winston owns nearly every Buccaneers passing record. What’s that? Buccaneers passing records don’t mean much? Yes, the Buccaneers passing records aren’t exactly up there with NFL elite records. This is a common response from that segment of the fanbase I mentioned earlier. That’s when you point out that Winston also owns 8 NFL passing records. The response then is typically crickets.
Fast-forward to week 15 of the NFL season and Winston is up to his old tricks of breaking NFL records. Jameis Winston is the first player in the history of the NFL to throw for 450 yards in back-to-back games. Yes, the ONLY player, ever!
Oddly enough that, and all the previous accolades mentioned, isn’t enough for some of the Buccaneers faithful to even consider keeping Winston. It’s as if they believe quarterbacks who are sacked at a high rate, pressured relentlessly and still put up numbers that break records grow on trees. Fun fact, they don’t. To understand the hatred towards him is a practice in futility. The team is on a 4-game win streak, winning 5 of the last 6. Surely Winston had SOMETHING to do with that.
Yet, somehow the jury is still out on him. Winston, on the other hand, is all in on returning to the Buccaneers.
“I hope I’ve helped myself because I definitely want to be in Tampa. We just have to finish strong and that’s all we can focus on is week to week. We’ve got to finish strong. We’ve got some more adversity coming our way. No matter the adversity we’ve faced this year, we’re going to be up for it and we’re going to be ready.”
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht does have options when it comes to deciding if and how to keep Winston. Licht can simply franchise tag Winston, giving him another year in Arians’ system before deciding on a long-term deal or release. He could also offer Winston a long-term deal that is incentive-based. The last option is to simply not resign Winston and let him leave via free agency.
Regardless of where you come out on this Winston debate, you have give him credit. Credit for persevering through three different head coaches, playing behind a routinely bad offensive line, playing without any real run game and of course playing on a team that’s given up more 4th quarter leads than I care to count. Despite that, Winston still wants to be here.