The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
This week’s topic: Is Bucs QB Winston Still Salvageable?
Table of Contents
Scott Reynolds: One More Disastrous Game And Winston Is Done
You heard Bucs head coach Bruce Arians on Monday when he was asked about whether or not Sunday’s six-turnover game from Jameis Winston changed his opinion of Tampa Bay’s beleaguered quarterback: “If it happens again, yeah, it’ll concern the hell out of me.” That is a warning to Winston, that despite being five games into Arians’ system and tutelage, having a hand in six turnovers in an 11-point loss to Carolina on Sunday will not be tolerated anymore. And it shouldn’t.
Despite being six games in to a new offense with new coaches, Winston is also five years into being an NFL quarterback. He should know by now not to take sacks. He should know by now to throw the ball away to avoid sacks, sack-fumbles or interceptions. Like Arians said in his Monday press conference, “incompletions won’t get you beat.” And when Winston is throwing the ball away he should be careful in doing so, unlike when he threw a pick-six when trying to throw the ball away against San Francisco in a loss in the season opener.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
But instead of being a careful quarterback, Winston has been careless with 10 interceptions and a fumble through six games. That’s an average of nearly two turnovers per game, and that simply can’t continue. Lesser quarterbacks like Carolina’s Kyle Allen, New Orleans’ Teddy Bridgewater, San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo and Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett are far more careful with the football and their teams have winning records to show for it as a result.
So when I say that one more disastrous game and Winston is done, I don’t mean that he’ll be benched in favor of Ryan Griffin this season. I mean he’s done, as in finished in Tampa Bay as the team’s quarterback. That means no big contract extension and no franchise tag for Winston next year if that occurs. What does another disastrous game for Winston look like by definition? It’s a game with three or more Winston turnovers, or perhaps a game in which he throws a couple of picks and no touchdowns, and he’s the clear culprit of yet another Buccaneers loss.
With a 2-4 record, time is running out on Tampa Bay’s 2019 season, and Winston’s future with the Bucs. Winston and the Bucs would have to finish the year 6-4 just to end up with a .500 record. Do you see that happening? In order for six wins or more to occur, Winston would have to stop playing Superman, throw the ball away and be more careful with the ball, and be far less careless with it. And if I’m being honest, if Winston hasn’t grasped that five years into his NFL career – and six games into the Arians era – I don’t think he will, unfortunately. There’s another disastrous game on the way before this season is through.
Mark Cook: There’s Plenty To Be Concerned About, But Winston Is Definitely Salvageable
Tampa Bay’s 37-26 loss to Carolina in London was ugly. There is no way to sugarcoat it. But to throw in the towel on quarterback Jameis Winston after six games, playing in a new offense with a new coaching staff and missing the right side of the Bucs offensive line isn’t anything head coach Bruce Arians is going to do. That is ludicrous.
Looking back at Winston’s six turnovers, some were really bad. None more than the fumble lost inside Panthers’ territory with the Bucs still in the game in the first half. But on Winston’s first interception, Arians said wide receiver Mike Evans needed to come back for the ball and didn’t correctly run the route. Two of Winston’s interceptions came as a result of being hit as he was throwing the ball, and the last one to Evans with seconds left was just a lack of effort on Evans part. It was man coverage and Evans should win that match-up at least half the time – if not more. At the very least Evans needs to play defender and break up the pass. Winston 100 percent made the right read on that play.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Roger McQueen/PR
Yes, I am aware that Winston isn’t a rookie. And yes, I’m aware of some other really bad games from Winston. His four-interception rookie debut against Tennessee comes to mind, as does his four-turnover disaster in Cincinnati last year that got Winston benched for a stretch. But how quickly fans forget the 55-40 win at Los Angeles earlier this year. Or the stretch of games this season that saw Winston throw 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions. It isn’t like Winston doesn’t have the ability to play good, winning football.
The turnovers are frustrating, and have plagued Winston since his final year at Florida State. Maybe this is who Winston is, but that doesn’t mean that the Bucs can’t win with him. Now teams won’t ever win a game when its quarterback turns the ball over six times, but the four losses this season can’t be blamed completely on the quarterback.
There’s no doubt that it is getting harder and harder to defend Winston and his incredible turnover rate since entering the league in 2015. But put a decent defense around him, give him some more games in the new system and perhaps we won’t see Winston feeling like he must be Superman every game in order for the team to win. Winston has been conditioned to feel the need to put the team on his back based on the porous defense that he has had nearly his whole time in Tampa Bay.
Can he snap out of that mentality and cut down on the turnovers? Arians believes he can, and only time will tell, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water after just six games. No way, no how. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out over the coming 10 weeks before passing a final judgment on Winston.
Trevor Sikkema: Of Course, But How Much Is That Worth?
It’s funny that we’re asking this question, isn’t it? Since we didn’t exactly learn anything new from Tampa Bay’s 37-26 loss to Carolina. Last Sunday’s turnover-fest from Jameis Winston wasn’t the first from him in his career, it was just the latest. Sure, people were disappointed in Winston’s performance, but shocked? As if they couldn’t believe this could happen? The only one in the world who seemed to act like that was Bruce Arians.
Is Winston salvageable? Sure. I think the answer here is: of course he is. There are plenty of examples for this. You can point to some of Ben Roethlisberger’s bounce-back seasons, you can look at guys like Drew Brees being later bloomers into what became the prime of their careers in their late 20s and early 30s, and you can even look at Carson Palmer’s first six or seven games with Bruce Arians in Arizona compared to his next eight and see that there was a drastic improvement.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Is he salvageable? Yes. The real question is, how much is “salvageable” worth? Is it worth a long-term extension this offseason? Many would tell you no. Is it worth the franchise tag? That’s likely a fully guaranteed, one-year, $25 million deal for 2020. If Winston hasn’t become the guy Tampa Bay wants him to become in five years of play, even if he has a great year next year on the tag, are the Bucs really just going to blindly trust it as the new Winston and act like the past five years are gone for good? Unlikely.
All of that to say that yes, Winston is salvageable, and I think he has the head coach around him to do be salvaged. But the fact that we’re asking this question sort of makes you want to splash cold water on your face, slap yourself or whatever it is and just say, “How did we get here?”
Taylor Jenkins: Winston’s Ability To Be Salvaged Is Officially In Doubt
Jameis Winston has always had excuses from his supporters throughout his time in the NFL, all absolutely being valid to an extent. Whether it has been a bad defense forcing Winston to play the dreaded “Superman” role, or bad offensive line play, or a bad running game or a much-needed coaching change.
Even this season Winston had the benefit of the doubt in a new offensive system with Bruce Arians, the quarterback whisperer, in his corner. But this past Sunday’s six-turnover performance has put even the most fervent Winston supporters in doubt, and that has to include Arians to an extent.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Now it hasn’t been all bad, quite the opposite in fact. Over a two-week span Winston was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL coming off back-to-back games against the Giants and Rams where he was nearly perfect, with the exception of a regrettable interception in each. He also had a pretty good game against the Panthers in Week 2, a less-than-stellar showing against the Saints in Week 5 and performances that gave Tampa Bay little to no chance of winning in Week 1 against San Francisco and Week 6 versus Carolina.
Therein lies the problem. Winston’s talent, his work ethic, his leadership, his football IQ have never been questioned by anyone whose opinion matters, but his inconsistency is downright self-destructive for someone who must be trusted to perform as a franchise quarterback.
This fifth-year quarterback is fantastic at his best, but he will actively lose Bucs games at his worst. He makes mistakes when his back is against the wall that are simply unacceptable for a potential franchise quarterback in his fifth year, and it has to put into question whether his play cannot only be consistent enough to expect playoff appearances, but consistent enough to rattle off three or four consecutive wins against premier competition once you get there.
I’m not saying Winston isn’t salvageable, but it’s looking less likely every time he goes out and plays like he did on Sunday. It’s been six weeks into the 2019 season, and after a much-needed bye week, the final 10 weeks that follow will be the ultimate proving ground for both Winston and Arians. Can Arians calm the storm that is Jameis Winston on a week-to-week basis? Can Winston learn to stay calm and avoid forcing his play, even when his back is to the wall and the moment is at its biggest? If not, there will be a very tough decision to make in the coming offseason. Or perhaps Winston will make that decision rather easy with his play – one way or the other.
Matt Matera: Winston Can Be Salvaged, But He Has To Get It Together Soon
Jameis Winston has 10 weeks remaining on the schedule to figure things out before the Bucs need to contemplate their next move after his contract expires. By Week 15 Winston will have played 14 games this season and we’ll have a better understanding of where he’s at.
If he hasn’t gotten it together by then, he never will. If there’s any coach that can get to him, it’s Bruce Arians, and I don’t think enough time has gone by to determine that Winston has fully developed into this new offense just yet. Winston and the Bucs have only played six games this season, and they’re not yet at the halfway point. I believe there’s still time for Winston to be at the best in this system, a system that has worked for quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.
We just saw Winston’s worst performance of the year in London where he turned the ball over six times. But just two weeks prior, Winston had a performance that was so good against the Los Angeles Rams with 385 yards and four touchdowns that it won him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. It’s never been a question about the talent and whether he can make the throws, it’s been stringing together a good number of games consistently. And I think Arians can get him to that point with some adjustments. Winston studies the game hard, and he knows the mistakes he’s made can be corrected.
Of course everyone likes to compare how Arians salvaged Carson Palmer out in Arizona. The NFL Research Department brought up the stats of Winston’s first year with Arians and compared it to the stats of Palmer in his first year in 2013, and the data shows that this is right around the time where quarterbacks turn the corner in Arians’ offense.
According to the NFL Research Department, Palmer’s stats through the first seven weeks were a 3-4 record, 248.7 passing yards per game, 60.5 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Palmer’s stretch over weeks 8-17 were much improved. He recorded a 7-2 record with 281.4 yards per game, 65.7 completion percentage, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It’s a significant uptick in production.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Between the first seven weeks, Winston has a 2-4 record with 295.2 yards per game, a 60 percent completion rate, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In other words, he has very similar stats to that of Palmer’s first seven weeks in this offense. What he’ll do in weeks 8-17 remains to be seen.
As bad as his game was in London, Winston has a reputation of bouncing back in the following games after a bad performance, and we’ve seen that as early as this year. Up until the London game, I had him marked as at least deserving a franchise tag at the end of the season. The Bucs need to decide whether to do that, let him walk, or sign him to a long-term deal.
Does one bad game completely negate any of the positives he’s had this season? It made a dent in that perception, but I don’t think it totally erases what he’s already done. One thing that’s certain, though, is that he doesn’t have anymore mulligans. Winston is on his last straw and by no means can he put up another clunker like he did across the pond. There’s still some time for him to turn the page, but the clock is ticking.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com