Let me preface this article by saying that I have ALWAYS been a Jameis Winston fan. I have been on board the “Jameis Train” since Tampa Bay drafted him #1 overall in the 2015 Draft. I’ve been defending him all year concerning that bogus Uber incident. I’ve been convinced that he is a franchise quarterback and the future of this franchise. Hell, I was even a part of the whole #ThatsMyQB movement during his suspension. That being said, I’m not sure how I feel about his situation here in Tampa moving forward. After another interception riddled game where his turnovers were the biggest reason for the loss, his future with the Buccaneers has to be in question. He is now 19-29 as the Bucs starter with 70 turnovers (54 interceptions, 16 fumbles) in those 48 starts. That’s the second most turnovers in the league since the 2015 season.
Jameis has always had an issue taking care of the football. While in college at Florida State, he had 28 interceptions in 27 career games. In seven of those games, he threw 2 or more picks. It’s no different for him at the next level. Out of his 49 games as a pro, Jameis has 28 games with 2 or more picks and he’s fumbled the football a whopping 35 times, losing 16 of them. In his last 5 games, he’s completed 64% of his passes for 1,544 yards, 8 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. This is hardly the stat line for a guy that’s about to make $21 million next season and who is (or maybe was) preparing to sign a second contract worth over $100 million.
Obviously, I’m not blaming Jameis Winston for every Buccaneers loss since he came here. This team has plenty of other issues besides their QB. However, the Bucs are 3-12 when he throws 2 or more interceptions. Are all of his picks his fault? Absolutely not. Guys run the wrong routes. Balls get tipped. The QB gets hit while he’s throwing. That stuff happens. But it happens to every NFL quarterback too. The thing that every NFL quarterback does not do is makes poor decisions and bad throws on a consistent basis. Jameis Winston does do that. It might be the biggest hole in his game. Is it because he’s got that “gunslinger” mentality like Brett Favre? Maybe. Is it because he’s trying to do too much sometimes? Probably. Is it because he’s trying to fit some throws in where they don’t belong because he has the talent to do it? Sure, that plays a part. But a lot of it has to do with plain, old fashioned, bad decision making.
I thought Jameis would come back from his 3-game suspension and set the world on fire. He looked great throughout the preseason finishing 30 of 41 for 388 yards and 3 touchdowns completing 73% of his passes. In the 4 games that he’s played this season, he’s thrown for 1,181 yards, 6 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 65% of his passes. That’s terrible. Especially when you see that Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 1,550 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions running the same offense with the same offensive weapons. After throwing 2 first half interceptions against the Bengals on Sunday, which helped cause the Bucs to trail by a score of 26-9 at half, Winston proceeded to throw two more in the 3rd quarter. One of those, his fourth and final pick of the day, was a pick six that took the wind out of Tampa’s sails and gave the Bengals a 34-16 lead with about two minutes left in the third. Dirk Koetter made the right call and finally benched Winston in favor of Fitz who came in and led the team back to a 34-34 tie with about one minute left in regulation. Unfortunately, the injury plagued Bucs defense couldn’t hold their ground and they gave up 40 yards in less than a minute and allowed Cincy to kick a 44-yard game winning field goal. Which brings us to the question…what next?
So what is next for this team? That was the original purpose of this article. I didn’t set out to bash Jameis with all of this turnover talk but that’s what it all boils down to, right? The knock on him throughout his entire career is that he throws picks and can’t win games. Yes, I know he hasn’t exactly had the best supporting cast at times and he is playing with one of the worst defenses (statistically) of all time. But that’s one of the ugly side effects of being a quarterback. You get all the blame if you play bad and not enough credit when you play good. In fact, the Bucs are 9-11 even when Jameis doesn’t throw any interceptions in games. This team is 23-32 since drafting Jameis Winston. What’s even more maddening is when you look around the league and see so many other young quarterbacks and their teams playing well. Carson Wentz (25) from the Philadelphia Eagles is 21-15 as a starter while throwing 62 touchdowns to just 23 interceptions in 36 games. Jared Goff (24) with the LA Rams is 18-11 as a starter while throwing 47 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions in his 29 games. And Patrick Mahomes (23) of the Kansas City Chiefs is now 8-1 as the starter while throwing 27 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. Jameis Winston (24) is now 19-29 as a starter while throwing 75 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. Yes, he’s rewriting this team’s record books and even some of the NFL’s too. But does all of that matter if the team is not winning games?
Look, I’m the first guy that will speak up and say “Football is called the ultimate team game for a reason. It’s not just about one guy!”. However, look at Mahomes who’s 8-1 playing with one of the worst defenses in football. And none of these guys have the offensive fire power that the Bucs have…none of them. So what’s going on? Who’s to blame here if it’s not Winston and his long list of turnovers? This team lost the turnover battle today 4-0 and still had a chance to win in the end because the defense clamped down and held the Bengals offense to 3 points in the second half. Unfortunately, those 3 points came from the game winning field goal at the end of regulation. This team had 576 yards of offense today (450 passing, 126 rushing) to the Bengals 402 yards…and lost. They also won the time of possession 36 minutes to 24 minutes. The difference in this game was Winston’s 4 interceptions. Sure, two of them didn’t result in any points for Cincy. But the other two did, including the pick six late in the third that got him benched.
So what do the Bucs do here? They’ve already decided to pick up his fifth year option for next year at $21 million, but it’s only guaranteed against injury. Should they decide to part ways with him after this season, it would not be a hit towards the salary cap. So is that what they do? Can they justify paying this guy that kind of money and then some with his second contract? I’m not so sure anymore. I haven’t seen his postgame press conference yet, but I’m guessing it went something like this…
“I have to be better.”
“I have to take better care of the football.”
“I have to stop turning the ball over like that.”
“I just have to keep trying to learn from my mistakes and get better each week.”
Is that about right? Did I nail it? It’s the same song and dance every week. I just wanna know WHEN???
WHEN are you going to “get better”?
WHEN are you going to “take better care of the football”?
WHEN are you going to “stop turning the ball over like that”?
WHEN are you going to “learn from your mistakes and get better each week”?
I know he’s young, but this is his fourth year in the league and his fourth year in this offense. The excuses have to stop. I love what Jameis does off the field and in the community. The charity work and the positive things that he does around Tampa Bay far outweighs any of the immature decisions that he’s made off the field. I love Jameis as a leader. So do the Bucs. But Bucs linebacker Riley Bullough is a great leader too and he’s on and off this team more than anyone else on the roster other than Javien Elliott. This team has leaders…I think. What they need is a quarterback who takes care of the football. They need a quarterback that the rest of the team believes in. I don’t know if Jameis Winston is that guy anymore. Hell, DeSean Jackson wants out of Tampa now because he’s not clicking with Jameis. And that’s after being one of the top receivers in the league for the first few weeks of the season with Fitz throwing him the ball. Am I saying that Fitz is the answer? Absolutely not. Not long term anyway. But the team has to at least be considering starting him in Carolina next week instead of Winston. If that wasn’t the discussion between Licht and Koetter on the flight back from Cincy, then I really wanna know what was. This team has to figure out what their plans are for Winston, both short term and long term. They’re running out of time. Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter entered this season in the “hot seat” and it just got a whole lot hotter. There’s not much coming out quarterback wise in the 2019 Draft so I don’t think that’s an option. And Licht would essentially be signing his own pink slip by releasing his #1 pick, “franchise QB” next offseason.
So what are their options? I think the smart move is to roll with Fitz next week and see how it goes. Take it one week at a time. If he plays well and wins games, then keep him in. If not, then march Winston back out there and take your chances. I think they have to let him play out his fifth year option next year. I’m not sure what the alternative is at this point. Like I said, the prospects coming out next year aren’t very impressive and nobody is going to give up a “franchise-type” quarterback in a trade (unless it’s Jon Gruden with Derek Carr).
The Bucs are now 3-4 after this loss. Is the season over? Not quite…but it’s getting close. A division loss, on the road, against the Panthers next week would probably seal the deal though. They’re now last in the NFC South once again looking up at everyone else from the bottom. This team has a lot of soul searching to do this week. This staff has a lot of decisions to make this week. And Bucs fans may have a tough pill to swallow this week if THIS franchise decides that Jameis Winston is not “THE franchise”.
I guess we’ll find out later this week which direction this team will be going but until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!