Jameis Winston: Gunslinger Comparison

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As we sit here in January, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still weighing their options on what to do with Jameis Winston. Do they go all in and hope his gunslinger mentality can bring the Buccaneers success? Or do they think the interceptions are too detrimental, and decide to let him test free agency?

Whatever the Buccaneers decide to do, fans seem to be supplanted on one side of the “pro-Jameis vs anti-Jameis” debate. Many say that the team can win with Winston behind center, pointing to the similar style of Brett Favre. Others, point to the career of players like Jay Cutler, who struggled to win in Chicago with the same gunslinger mentality.

In this article, we will compare Winston to other quarterbacks in the NFL. More specifically, quarterbacks who are categorized as gunslingers. While you may disagree slightly, here is how I define this type of quarterback.

  1. Strong arm and consistently attempts to throw the deep ball
  2. Can extend plays in the pocket to find an open receiver downfield
  3. Tendencies to force passes into tight windows, which can result in a miraculous play or an unfortunate turnover

While there are many quarterbacks that can be categorized in this criteria, I have chosen Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Mathew Stafford as modern era passers to compare to Jameis Winston.

Using only the first five years of their respective careers, here is how Jameis Winston stacks up against the competition.

Efficiency

As you can see from the above table, Winston leads this group in yards, touchdowns and interceptions. These are fairly basic counting stats, but what I want to point out is Adjusted Net Yards per Pass attempt, or ANY/A.

Simply put,this statistic quantifies efficiency by rewarding touchdowns and passing yards while punishing sacks and interceptions. You can read more about the specific formula here.

Looking at the table, you can see that Jameis Winston leads the group in ANY/A and is actually fairly efficient for a player characterized as a gunslinger. In fact, Winston is ranked 19th all time in adjusted net yards, just behind Andrew Luck.

This means that Winston’s positive plays outweigh his tendency to turn the ball over compared to other quarterbacks.

Fans will still point to the 2019 season, and say that it is impossible to win with 30 interceptions. While this may be true, Winston’s turnover rate was actually a statistical outlier compared to the rest of his career.

2015: 2.8%
2016: 3.2%
2017: 2.4%
2018: 3.7%
2019: 4.8%

Calculating the median gives us 3.2%, a much bigger difference than the 4.8% outlier. What does this mean for 2020? I expect Winston’s interception totals to significantly decrease, and regress back to the mean.

Winnability

We can dive into statistic after statistic, but in reality, none of it matters if the team doesn’t win. As you can see from the table, only Mathew Stafford and Winston have a team record of below .500.

Ironically, Ben Roethlisberger’s interception percentage is the tied for most on the list with Jay Cutler. Both hold team records of 51-20 and 34-34 respectively.

Even with an enormous sack percentage of 9.2%, Roethlisberger was able to win, and win consistently with an aggressive play style similar to Jameis Winston.

After analyzing the data, I believe Winston can win in the NFL. Players of similar styles have shown that it is achievable. But football is a team game, and most great quarterbacks have a defense and a running game that supports them.

Winston has been plagued by inadequacies in both departments, and I am interested to see how the Buccaneers perform when they are up par with the rest of the league in defensive/running efficiency.

Photo credit: Bucs Nation

 

 

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