Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
Playing quarterback in the National Football League is hard – like, really hard.
The quarterback position is all-in-all the most difficult, polarizing, important, complex, immeasurable, crucial, game-changing, team-changing and franchise-changing position – and perhaps city- or region-changing – in all of professional sports. In broadcasting, nothing moves the needle (a phrase used to describe interest or potential views) like having or not having a quarterback in football. The reason for this is because it means the most, from the casual fan to the most detailed die-hard.
To understand just how intricate playing quarterback is, here’s a little excerpt from a former collegiate quarterback, and now writer for Inside The Pylon, Mark Schofield.
It always amazed me how beautiful and serene I could find the sky from behind my facemask. The hot August morning sky was a brilliant shade of orange and pink, brightening as a campus settled down to sleep as seventy or so football players were just starting their day of double sessions. The dreary, grey New England skies that signaled winter in October, and another season winding down. Whether it was a quick moment of pre-practice stretching, or after being driven to the turf by a massive defensive lineman during a game ‒ as a quarterback, I grew to appreciate the sky.
That’s the voice in my head. It is always there. Every practice. Every game. Telling me, reminding me of all the bits of information I need for the next audible, the next snap, the next drive. Most of the time it is coverages, fronts, blitzes, and progressions. But sometimes it is the basics.
Okay, deep breath. Nothing hurts, too much. Right wrist feels a bit wonky. Let’s flex that a few times. Ok. Check the scoreboard. Clocks are both running. Guess the pass was complete. 2nd and 7. Well, had to check the ball down on that play, nothing was open downfield. Guys are huddled. Good. Spot the coaches. RB coach showing me a closed fist meaning we are using base personnel this next play. The tight end coach ‒ what’s he doing? Right, that’s for my TE and he’ll get the pre-snap motion or shift call. One thing I don’t have to worry about ‒ yet. Where’s my head coach? There he is. Ah, open face to hand, meaning weak. Got it. His arm extended right. Right. Got it. We’re going weak right. His right arm straight up now. That’s one. Left arm angled downward. That’s nine. Weak right 19. Okay. Check the wristband. What’s that Floyd lyric? “13 channels of s*** but nothing to turn to?” I’ve got 100 on this wrist band. What’s play 19? There it is.
If you haven’t read the article in its entirety, it’s called, “Decision Making Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum,” and I highly encourage you to. It’s not too long, and it’s one of the most unique looks into playing quarterback I’ve ever come across. It would also be a good foundation for what we’re going to talk about on the second page.
There’s a phrase across the NFL that gets tossed around a lot, mainly because we can go deep into the details of the depth chart and the scheme and the game plans and the personnel and all of that, but, at the end of the day…
You either have a quarterback or you don’t.
For the first time in a long time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one in Jameis Winston. But, it’s not just the ability to throw the ball that completes the phrase of having a quarterback. Some of it has to do with age, and how it’s important to get a guy you can believe in while young – Winston is just 23 years old. It also has to do with how they handle big moments and the kind of competitor they are – Winston is both a Heisman Trophy winner and a National Champion, two things that also led him to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
And even beyond ability and accomplishments, being a franchise quarterback means you have to not only be able to lead your team on the field production-wise, but also in the locker room, at the podium and in the community. With just two years in the league, in a city that was new to him, Winston has already become the face to know, and the face people around Tampa Bay enjoy seeing.
In theory, Winston is everything you’d want; Winston is that quarterback to have. But, despite becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, he still has a ways to climb before he is recognized as that quarterback to have in his entirety. The first milestone he’ll need to reach is to lead the Buccaneers to their first playoff birth since 2007. After that, something he could knock out at the same time, is giving the franchise their first playoff victory since the Bucs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 2002.
If Winston can make it to the playoffs – multiple playoffs, really – he’ll be viewed as a true franchise quarterback based on meaningful production not just potential, perhaps the best Tampa Bay has ever had its hands on. Until then, we can call him that all we want, but it’s still a wins and losses business. He would be the first one to tell you that. It’s not about the dreams, it’s about making them come true. It’s not about setting or seeing the goals, it’s about reaching them. Winston doesn’t want to be called a franchise quarterback just because he was drafted high and has a lot of potential. He wants to be a franchise quarterback because of the things he actually does for the franchise.
Right now he’s a prince. He has yet to become the king. His journey to the crown of a franchise player is still on a winding road, one that reminds me of a certain super hero we all know of. There’s one area of Winston’s game that is scheduled to take the next step, and needs to take the next step if he’s going to get to those first two milestones. Thankfully for Bucs fans, those that know the story of this certain super hero know how this turns out if their paths truly are parallel.