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.

Sky.

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.

“Get up.”

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.

Ex-Florida State QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Ex-Florida State QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

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.

(Next page)

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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Hank Scorpio
3 years ago

“There was heavy debate between Winston and now Tennessee Titans quarterback, Marcus Mariota, before the 2015 NFL Draft. Would you have preferred Mariota? Did you back then? Or do you believe that, in the long run, the Buccaneers made the right choice.”

Oh man, here we go

wnb0395
Reply to  Hank Scorpio
3 years ago

I have to admit I was big time Mariota homer. I thought the Bucs made a huge mistake drafting Winston instead of Mariota. The last 2 seasons Winston has impressed me and continues to impress me mainly with is work ethic and his fire and passion. He truly loves this game and plays with all his heart. Only time will tell if the Bucs made the right choice but ever since we drafted him, I am a Winston fan no matter what.

Naplesfan
3 years ago

Asking if one prefers one player over the other now is not a matter of who is the better NFL player today … the answer to which is it’s basically a tie. It’s more akin to asking “do you prefer zinfandel over merlot” or “do you prefer a pale ale over a stout?”. The two players are very different players and their respective teams are built around their very different skill sets. I preferred Mariota over Winston in the draft, primarily because I thought then that Winston was immature and Mariota was relatively mature, which was true in both cases,… Read more »

jshumaker
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

With the additions of D Jackson, OJ Howard and C Godwin I do see the light coming on for Jameis and the entire offense. If Evans was able to put up the numbers he did last year with non-stop double teams I find it very hard to believe defenses are going to be able to cover everybody. Which should end up with Jameis being able to put up very impressive numbers

sunshineben
3 years ago

Most all of nfl people rate M.M. higher then Winston in the past years . The bucs head coach now also wanted M.M. before his boss (Lovie ) changed his mind. M.M. was ahead of Winston on EVERY measure in the nfl draft so i think the bucs picked the guy to help fill the stands. Now Winston has so many good players around him it his his turn to end the debate or the bucs picked the wrong qb.

e
e
Reply to  sunshineben
3 years ago

Yeah… That whole leadership thing included in your measurements as well.