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It’s Time To Let Go

Jameis Winston is a draft bust.

It hurts. I know. It hurt when I had to entertain the notion a couple seasons ago. Well, now it’s an ugly and inconvenient truth to us BUCS fans. It’s just a lot harder some of us to admit. The 1st Overall Pick of the 2015 NFL Draft has completed 5 seasons in Tampa. He’s not yet signed to a 2nd contract. Hence, has no trade value. And it’s nowhere near a no-brainer when it comes to the possibility of re-signing him as a free agent. He’s highly unlikely to be the the player he was drafted to be in Tampa. Those are all elements of a draft bust.

The franchise QB hopeful has failed to live up the hype/hope of a top draft pick. The cost to keep hoping he all of a sudden becomes a much better player is just far too high at this point. If the BUCS decide to bring Winston back for a 6th season under the franchise tag, it’ll be at a cost close to $27M according to OverTheCap. That’s for one more season of service, good or bad. When you take into consideration the Team used the $20.9M 5th year option on his rookie deal to let him show that he was much better than we’d seen the previous four years, we’re looking at almost $50M for “prove it” seasons. And that’s just for the opportunity to give him a raise in hopes he can do it again on a slightly longer, even more expensive contract. That’s insanity to me.

I’ve alluded to the front office possibly being guilty of trying to build a narrative rather than building a team before. Re-signing the once highly regarded QB would be the most egregious act I’ve seen though. Even more than when the current head coach removed any semblance of competition and/or competence from the backup QB position just to make sure the starter didn’t have to “look over his shoulder”. That move indicated that the either the coach or front office had decided that, at the detriment of the Team, they’d win with Winston or no one at all at. Winston rewarded them with 3 games(SF, CAR, HOU,) that resembled the performance(vs CIN) that got him benched by the previous head coach when there was a remotely suitable backup.

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The Fear Of Missing Out

A common notion I’ve seen revolves around letting Winston go and watching him win with another team. The fear of of seeing him win a Super Bowl wearing another jersey is too much to bear for some. Names like Doug Williams, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer are often brought up. This irrational thought process is among the worst.

Trent Dilfer merely existed on Super Bowl team. On the year, he threw 12 TDs to 11 INTs. And in the big game, he threw for 153 yards and 1 TD. That’s it.

Former 17th Overall pick, Doug Williams went on to win a Super Bowl two years after being released from the Buccaneers. But, he did so as a backup/rotational QB. He was 0-2 as the starter. Jay Schroeder was the signal caller while the team from Washington amassed an 8-2 record. And Ed Rubbert saw the team go 3-0 with him under center. It was Doug Williams’ solid performance in the playoffs that gets special recognition and rightfully so. But that’s 3 games. That’s Nick Foles-like. It’s not enough to break the bank for and risk the prime years of other talent on the roster.

Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, Cameron Brate and Ali Marpet are all ultra talented guys whose future and value can no longer be put at risk. It’s irresponsible. While these guys have all shown to be consummate professionals, one shouldn’t fully expect them to remain quiet on one of the big reasons they’ve been losing over the last few years. Inaccurate passes have killed them. Miscommunication has killed them. The turnovers have killed them. And they’ve been at fault or, at least, accused of some of those issues. But you know they know what’s happening. They’re not going to point fingers. They’re not going to go against the grain.

Ex-Buccaneer DeSean Jackson was shunned by fans and labeled selfish when he wouldn’t fully endorse Winston as the starting QB returning from a suspension. In his absence, Jackson had made good on being a threat in the offense by being on the receiving end of several deep balls. Deep balls that had been routinely overthrown or underthrown by Jameis Winston the previous season.

I’d hate to see any other BUCS player go on to be bitter because of the Team prioritizing making Winston the QB they thought they drafted rather than fielding a winning Team. Jackson wanted to win more than anything. Mike Evans shares the same sentiment. As a fan, I’m more afraid of missing out on the guys that are already regarded as top players in their positions than I am of missing out on someone who is 2-3 years behind schedule in development.

It’s Not Over, But It Ain’t Pretty

To be clear, Jameis Winston can go on to be a much better player. But it shouldn’t be with the Buccaneers. Drew Brees went on to become a great player for the New Orleans Saints after San Diego moved on from him for a cheaper option in Phillip Rivers via draft trade. From both a financial and team building standpoint, it was the right thing to do. The Chargers continued winning and making playoff appearances with their less expensive QB and kept adding other pieces. They only had 2 losing seasons over the next 10 years.

In full context, Brees didn’t start right away. He started his second season. However, Brees did do what most good QBs tend to do and he got notably better by his 3rd year as a starter. That’s something Winston didn’t achieve. In his 3rd season, he still resembled the 2014 collegiate version of himself far too often.

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That collegiate version was the one many would like to forget. The version that regressed. That version introduced us to the “gunslinger” that’s been residing in Tampa. Unfortunately, I don’t think that moniker actually fits. Not anymore anyways. “Gunslinger”, in its oldest and truest form described one that was an expert at being quick on the draw. Whether addressing his release or his decision, that’s not a good description of the former #1 overall pick. A common comparison made by the most faithful of Winston’s fans is to that of Brett Favre. But Favre only earned that title after he threw a lot more touchdowns than interceptions. Much like what Winston did in his phenomenal freshman season in college. Until then, Favre was labeled as “careless” and “reckless”.

He was the proverbial turnover machine. 37 INTs in two seasons. That matched his number of TDs over the same time. In his 3rd season as starter, Favre threw 2x as many TDs as INTs. He threw at least 33 TDs for 4 consecutive seasons while only having 15 or more INTs once. This feat made the juice worth the squeeze when it came to Favre and his penchant for throwing interceptions. Jameis Winston has yet to accomplish a similar feat. The closest he’s gotten was in 2016 when he threw 28 TDs to 18 INTs.

The development/progression is missing in a major way. The game isn’t slower for him. Decision making is between sketchy or erratic too often. He hasn’t shown signs of consistency in area. The same noted cons from draft profiles years ago still apply. When you see the interception numbers and comparisons between Winston and Favre and even Peyton Manning, it misses the context of progression. While the numbers are comparable, the progression is not.

5+5+5+5+5= 25 Winston

10+6+3+3+3= 25 Favre/Manning

Big Gameis Jameis?

One of the big things than define a true franchise QB is his performances on the big stage. Having played his entire career in the NFC South, home of 3 of the best QB talents in the League, Winston has had plenty of chances to stand out against top competition. While the win/loss record is a team stat, his individual performances against the best competition have been less than stellar.

 

Still, he’s gotten a level of admiration and loyalty from some select groups that would have you believe he’s a proven commodity and everything around him has failed to meet his standard. This likely stems from his one amazing year in college when he took the sports world by storm. But success isn’t transferable from year to year and especially from college to the professional level. So far, the professional level of competition has been far tougher on Jameis Winston than many want to recognize. Yes. He gives back to the community. Yes. He arrives to the Team facility early. Yes. He apparently tries hard.

But maybe that’s just it though. Maybe he’s just a guy that tries hard and that’s why he gets the allegiance and leniency of an an underdog by so many. The results on the field say he’s been trying too many of the wrong things though. He tries to make more out of what’s available which far too often turns into disaster. And it’s regardless of the score, the field position or the time left in the game.

Bottom Line

Is it possible the BUCS re-sign the embattled QB? Absolutely. The guy that traded up to the 2nd round for a kicker is still calling shots in Tampa. But, I don’t see how the head coach can address the BUCS locker room and preach accountability after allowing Jameis Winston back. I don’t see how that general manager can sell another free agent on this being a team aiming for a title of any kind after allowing Jameis Winston back. The bar of expectation has dwindled from being possible savior of the franchise to likely just being a bridge QB for the next franchise QB hopeful. A bridge QB that would cost more than the best player on the roster with the highest hope being the doesn’t get in the way of victory.

Re-signing Jameis Winston would be nothing short of an act of defiance at this point. It’s time to move on.