From the beginning of Jameis Winston’s career to being benched for the first time in his life this past Sunday, turnovers have often been the focal point.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been benched,” Winston said. “It’s humbling. It’s definitely something I can grow from and learn from and it just adds to the story. I’ve got to keep working hard and, like I said, every year my goal is to get better and better. Right now I’m not getting the job done so I have been replaced and I’m moving forward.”
Winston threw four interceptions in less than three quarters against the Bengals before Ryan Fitzpatrick took the field and led another “Fitzmagical” comeback charge, eliminating a 21-point deficit and finding Chris Godwin on a two-point conversion to tie the game at 34-34 with less than a minute remaining.
Winston leads the league with 10 interceptions on the season, despite only playing in two and a half games. With those four picks on Sunday, Winston now has 54 interceptions in 49 career games and he’s also fumbled the ball a total of 35 times in his career.
Fitzpatrick has been named the starter for the Bucs’ game in Carolina this weekend, but his lack of certainty beyond this season, an 2019 option that has already been picked up for Winston and the hope that Winston still might be the organization’s long-awaited franchise quarterback leaves the door open for him to see the field again.
“What doesn’t kill you will always make you stronger,” Winston said. “This is definitely a humbling process but it’s a chance for me to learn and sit behind Fitz, kind of like I did last year. I learned so much from him when I was injured and I got a chance to just analyze his game and see what he does.”
When offensive coordinator Todd Monken spoke to the media on Thursday he was confident in Fitzpatrick’s ability, but wouldn’t elaborate on the team’s plans after this week.
“I anticipate that [Fitzpatrick] will play well and that he’ll be our quarterback,” Monken said. “But I don’t know that. I did the same thing with Jameis. You anticipate a player playing well and you anticipate them continuing to play well.”
While Winston’s issues build, Fitzpatrick is having the year of his life. Through eight games, five of which he’s been a part of, Fitzpatrick still leads the league in passer rating, yards per pass attempt, yards per completion and sits second in the league in touchdown percentage, with 9% of his passes resulting in a score.
“What I’ve learned is that you’ve always got to stay ready and take advantage of your opportunities when you get them,” Fitzpatrick said. “The biggest thing about the NFL is that it’s a performance-based league. You’ve got to go out there and perform, and if you don’t, there are other guys that are going to be able to. That’s something I’ve learned and I’ve been on both sides of it plenty in my career.”
If Winston does see time as the Bucs’ quarterback again this year, through injury or otherwise, it will be the same song-and-dance; will Jameis Winston be able to limit his turnovers?
That’s the question and it always has been. You can talk about his young age, his vocal leadership and his upside, but the fact of the matter is that he has an issue with turnovers and now in his fourth year, has not made significant strides toward stopping that.
His opportunities are running out, so Winston needs desperately to take Fitzpatrick’s advice and take advantage should he get another one.