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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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: [email protected]
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Hank Scorpio

“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

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wnb0395

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.

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Naplesfan

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

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

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sunshineben

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.

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e

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

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jshumaker

Once MM broke his leg that about ended the discussion for me. Jameis is built like a tank. If you are a Titans fan you have to tense up every time he gets hit. Even DTs bounce off of Jameis like he is swatting away a pesky fly

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cgmaster27

And once again you fail to mention durability. MM hasn’t played a full season of football in 4 years. And there was plenty of draft-niks that ahead Jameis ahead of Marcus pre-draft. And how many championships did MM win? I must’ve missed that on as well in your stats. Both guys went to the Exact teams that needed them.

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scubog

Need to insert Mariota’s fumbles into the equation. For some reason those are never considered.

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toofamiliar17

This is just pure revisionist history. Jameis was far superior as a prospect to Mariota in plenty of important traits – the ability to throw with anticipation, arm strength, mental grasp of the game, and pocket presence, just to name a few. He also demonstrated much more natural leadership ability than Mariota ever did. That’s not to say that Marcus isn’t a leader, but he’s just not on the same level a guy like Jameis is. Mariota was an excellent prospect, and so far, it looks like he’s going to be a great NFL quarterback. I said at the time… Read more »

Iowabucfan

I believe there is no debate now regarding Jameis and Marcus. As Naplesfan mentioned above, Each franchise got the right guy.
I do believe Jameis will be even better. First, because he wants to and is putting the work in. Second, because he has more weapons around him. I believe he realizes he doesn’t have to force the ball now that he has more options. I do believe the interceptions will be down because of that.
Go Bucs! 3 weeks from TC!

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Horse

Well I was back and forth and finally decided I’ll take potential over safe. I have seen Winston improve from year one to year two; Mariota hasn’t. I see Winston improving again this year, the next, and a few more. If our Defense gets a little better too then I see us in the Playoffs this year. Luck and injuries also play into this too. i am totally against Hard Knocks because it’s a distraction and we don’t need that crap right now. We’ve turned the corner; now I’d like to see us actually complete the turn and power on.… Read more »

nitey

I agree with Horse, excellent article (again!) Trev. I also originally wanted MM over Winston, mostly because of the maturity factor, but like Naplesfan states, both teams got the right guy for what they are attempting to do. However, optimist that I am, I DO see Winston making a big improvement this year. I really do think he plays better quarterback and reduces his interceptions, but I also think he’ll be inconsistent with it. He’s still a competitor and I expect that he’ll still throw a few picks that we will all end up shaking our head at. But, I… Read more »

martinii

The question in my opinion is a no-brainer, Brad Johnson an at best average QB lead the Buc’s to a Super Bowl. Keyshawn, a few good receivers, and a great defense did the heavy lifting. Football requires a modest level of consistency and it really helps to have a QB who at this point in his career has been a good maturing player. Mariota has had some injuries but as far as who is the best, the jury is still out. Bottom line you need 53 good players, a limited number of injuries, good coaching, and a little luck. Jameis… Read more »

e

How about “Sikk Stat of the Week”?

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Buc-n-Philly Fan

Very nice job Trevor. I like the parallel with Thor. I don’t think I would have naturally come up with that myself. I wanted Jameis over Mariota but I was honestly nervous of the perceived “baggage” that could have come from that pick. In hind sight it was the right move as I think the upside is much higher with Jameis. I also do not want his mentality of taking shots to be slowed. The picks are an issue but the courage to make throws is what separates the good from the great. No matter what the opinions are I… Read more »

macabee

McCoy vs Suh, Evans vs Beckham, Jr., Winston vs Mariota – all debate fodder for some but not for me. We’ve made our choice and I never look back. For me it’s ride or die! I like our choices and wouldn’t trade them for any player of the same position today. It’s called dancing with the one that brung ya! What really burns my a$$ other than a small brush fire about yea high is waiting to see some real football. I can’t remember a time when I was more anxious to see what we got. My anticipation makes this… Read more »

scubog

As always macabee brings logic to the forum. There is little reason to continue debating the virtues of Mariota vs Winston any more than when one returns to his 50th class reunion to check out how his ex girlfriend has aged or how much weight she gained as compared to his wife. Thank goodness Scubog made the right Draft pick those many seasons ago.

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Destino102

This Cover 3 is brought to you by Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The favorite baking soda of Jameis Winston and Thor Odinson.

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Horse

Trevor, can you answer this question.
Why would the Bucs want to display Winston at this point in time especially since he is starting his 3rd season; I guess it’s all about the money?

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Horse

This is in reference to Hard Knocks

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JayBuc52

A couple of other elements that I have noticed from watching him are, one, he still throws off his back foot and the ball sails on him, and two, he doesn’t put enough air under his deep throws. On the former, if he manages to get his feet right before throwing, he wins the Rams game. He had several open receivers late that he missed because of bad footwork. Those should have been easy throws. The latter is that he is a bit enamored with his arm and throws a line drive on his deep throws. When you do that… Read more »

seat26

I like our chances this year. Bucs have done an excellent job on the Offensive side of the ball. We are solid at all the skill positions. If we can have the same success on Defense as we were starting to have at the end of last year, We are going to compete for the Division title.

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Rut

Good article Trevor. I’m one of the ones that wanted Mariota before the draft. I get that Jameis was a winner in college, and he was basically Captain Comeback, but there was a reason he had all those comeback wins. Mainly, slow starts. Something we’ve seen him not really be able to shake in the NFL either. So as a lifelong Bucs fan, I wasn’t too thrilled about drafting a QB that would need to come back all the time to win games. I also wasn’t sure about his character. I lived in NY when the rape stuff was coming… Read more »

toofamiliar17

Serious question – at the peak of the Winston legal stuff, did it ever occur to you to just review all of the available facts of the case, all of the evidence, and form your own conclusion? Are you really THAT reliant on things like a flawed legal system, or what the general public clamors on about, to form an individual opinion of a man’s guilt or innocence regarding an extremely serious crime/accusation?

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Rut

I’m not a lawyer. I didn’t have access to all the evidence of the case, nor did anyone else outside of the people working on it, and the judge presiding over it. All I had was the limited information that news outlets are given. I also have zero legal training. So no, I’m not arrogant enough to believe that just because I “googled” some available, but incomplete, information about the case that I was at all qualified to make an accurate judgement about whether or not he was truly guilty of anything. Sure, I had my individual opinion that his… Read more »

drdneast

Mariota profited in a huge way last year by having two really good RB’s and an improved offensive line while the Bucs took a step back with the loss of Logan Mankins and the troubles of Doug Martin. Winston was also suffering from having a lack of good receiver depth although Brate and Humphries both stepped up to fill in the void. Winston gets knocked a lot for his INT’s but as I have mentioned out her before, I can count 4 that clanged off the receivers hands or were due to poor or wrong route running. Add in the… Read more »

cgmaster27

Well said DRD, and I believe it was Rashard Green that Jameis was always forcing those balls to. He does favor his main targets and it has gotten him in trouble in the past. I hope our O-line is improved with the Marpet move. That alone is big as pressure up the middle on a QB is the worst kind.

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cgmaster27

Great article Trevor. When it comes to Jameis, he did have a habit of staring down his main read. But it was spurratick. IN the game against Oregon, which they lost, outside of his pick, which bounced off of his receivers hands, he was toying with Oregon’s secondary all day. Looking lefty and coming back right etc. I think both Jameis and Marcus went to the perfect teams. Jameis’ leadership and energy was needed for this team. MM would not have been as successful on this team as jameis. We needed a culture change and Jameis was just that. I’m… Read more »

cgmaster27

ON a side note , even I will admit, MM has been much better as a pro than I thought coming from the spread. Durability was always my concern though and he’s never alleviated that since coming to the pros.

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toofamiliar17

Coming down here before I even read the 2nd page to say that I really love that Schofield piece. Great concept, and I love the style in which it was written to go with it. Thanks for sharing.

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scubog

After three years of waiting, I’m most anxious to hear my friend Pinkstob’s position on Jameis Winston.

My superhero comparison for Winston, and really any other QB hopeful drafted by a downtrodden team, is Mighty Mouse and his warning, “Here I come to save the day!” Isn’t that what is expected?

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Buc 1976

MM would have been injured behind our O-Line and IMO never recovered from it mentally. Bucs got the the right QB.

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David DeLeon

I’m a big FSU fan so I was biased for Winston but I think he had started off a little better as well, best ability is availability. I think Mariota had been hurt both seasons. I think Winston has started great and still has areas to grow in, and that’s a great thing, his ceiling is still high. If his passes didn’t float just that much most of the interceptions would be gone. I love all the weapons he has now. I think he’ll be close to 5000 yards with about 10 int’s and 30 TD’s this year. I’m glad… Read more »