Two years in, and what are we to make of Jameis Winston?

Do you think he’s the Bucs’ best player, and the team needs to only to surround him with more weapons? Do you think he might be the best player to ever take a snap at quarterback here? Do you think he’s still the team’s best chance at winning?

Well, all the evidence you need to support your argument was on display Sunday.

Or, if you’re still a critic, do you think he throws too many interceptions and fumbles too much? Do you think he needs to be more precise? Do you think his offense has miles to go before this team can be considered a playoff team?

That, too, had its share of evidence Sunday. The Bucs won, 17-16, and they finished with a winning record at 9-7. But for most of the day, the team was sleepwalking through the finale. Tampa Bay won, but only after Carolina tight end Greg Olson slipped while running a route on a two-point conversion. Nothing felt convincing about the Bucs’ final argument.

Just this.

Winston won. That’s all.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Sue me, but I’m a Winston guy. I think he finds something when the game is on the line. I think he stops the silliness and finds and a way to win. I think he transforms from ballerina to ballplayer, from celebrity to competitor, and he bloodies his knuckles. I think that when the game is on the line, he’s usually at his best.

Consider Sunday. Most of the afternoon was an argument that Winston needs to be sharper. He threw an interception and 14 incompletions, and the Bucs ran around in tiny little circles like the players in Electric Football. The end zone was hazy in the distance; heck, a first down was too much to ask for.

“When you look at our offensive team, Jameis, Mike [Evans], Ali [Marpet], Donavan Smith, four guys you can really build around,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “I think you can throw Kevin Pamphile into the mix there. You could throw Cameron Brate into that mix. We’ve got a good nucleus of guys to build around. We have to add some playmakers and we have to add some speed. That’s just a fact.”

For the Bucs’ first 10 drives, the team got only a field goal. Considering that Roberto Aguayo is the Ronda Rousey of kickers, even that was a lot to ask. But for 10 drives, the Bucs trailed 10-3, and finishing with a three-game losing streak seemed probable.

And then, on the team’s 11th drive of the day, Winston smelled the victory. He woke up, and he woke his team up. He led his team on a 74-yard drive to the end zone, hitting 5-of-6 passes for 72 of the yards. (Jacquizz Rodgers had a 2-yard run, thank you very much.)

The rest was Winston. He hit Russell Shepard for 20 yards. He hit Evans for 16. He hit Shepard for nine. He hit Adam Humphries (his 10th reception) for 17. He threw an incompletion (Evans turned defender on the play). He rolled out, and looked about to run for the corner, and then threw to Evans for 10 yards and the touchdown.

“We just needed it,” Winston said.

And the Bucs won. Oh, they had to survive the Panthers’ two-point conversion, but they won. It was his sixth game-winning drive, his fourth fourth-quarter comeback. Consider this: Before that drive, Winston had a rating of 49.49. Afterward, he had a 71.4.

Two years in, and what are we to think of Winston?

Just this.

He isn’t perfect. But he competes his rear off, which makes up for a lot of flaws. He is unquestionably the leader of this team. He has back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons, and no Bucs quarterback has ever thrown for more than his 28 touchdowns this year.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Only Andrew Luck has thrown for more yards in his first two seasons than Winston’s 8,132 yards. Only four players – Dan Marino, Derek Carr, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson – have thrown for more than Winston’s 50 touchdowns.

Winston says he thinks his team can make the playoffs next year. When asked why, he seemed taken aback.

“Why would I not think that’s normal?” Winson said. “Why would I settle for less? Why would I want to be sitting at home when other teams are continuing to play football? I don’t think there’s any part of me that would be wanting to sit at home. If you’re not doing it to be the best, then why are you doing it?”

I’ll repeat this: The Bucs desperately need more offensive weapons around him. Evans can play. Humphries is better than he’s given credit for. Brate can play. But the Bucs need a threat at running back. They could use another receiver. They could use another offensive lineman.

I’ll say this, though. After two seasons, I think Winston, who will only turn 23 years old on January 6, is more of a real deal than Josh Freeman. He’s better than Doug Williams. He’s better than Brad Johnson, and Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde. Two years in, and what you hope Winston will be beats anything else this team has had.

Most of all, they need someone besides Winston to occasionally be their best offensive player.

Do that, and this could grow into the playoffs next year.

Do not, and it will be the failure of a franchise.

No one has won more awards, including two national Associated Press Sports Editors Best Columnist awards and eight top 10 finishes, than the legendary Gary Shelton, former sports columnist of the St. Petersburg Times. Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can.

Shelton just received his sixth Sportswriter of the Year award for Florida by the NSSA, and no one has seen more big events, including 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics and 11 Final Fours. Shelton still goes into the locker room to obtain his stories.

And no one has made you angrier, or laugh louder, or think harder about what he has written. Simply put, no one has covered Tampa Bay sports like Shelton has. Now you can read Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton

Bucs fans can enjoy Shelton’s weekly post-game column on the Bucs following every Tampa Bay game exclusively on PewterReport.com, and our readers are encouraged to subscribe to GarySheltonSports.com for all of his expert commentary on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays, USF, Florida, Florida State and all of the sports teams and sports figures in the national spotlight.

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About the Author: Gary Shelton

Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
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Amo
Amo
5 years ago

We need to ensure the Panthers do not draft Dalvin Cook. Give up a 3rd rounder and jump ahead of them. Cook and a burner at wr is what we need to take the next step on offense.

Horse
5 years ago

Well said Gary; totally agree. Before fans start discussing who the Bucs take at spot 19; I suggest some take a look to who we have on IR who can help us. By the way it will cost a lot more to move up at least to spots to take Dalvin Cook. I would let that thought go. Go Bucs!

Naplesfan
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

Yup Horse … we led the league in players on IR this season, and several of them were sorely missed on the offense. Those holes were temporary, and while it’s possible we could lead the league in players on IR again next season, that seems rather unlikely. I completely totally disagree with Cook and others who advocate giving up draft picks to draft yet another risky running back. In another comment on another thread, I went through all the first round RB picks from 2010 on and not a single one of them put two good seasons together in their… Read more »

cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

The problem is Naples, every position has a chance to get injured. Not just running back. Heck field goal kickers injure themselves. Cook is a transcendent back in the mold of Jamal Charles etc. now I wouldn’t give up the farm to move up and get him so I’ll agree with you there. But if the draft is three slots ahead of you and he’s there you make a move. I’ve stated I do love me some Corey Davis from western Michigan as well. Whatever it is we need speed period.

Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

Yes, of course, any player at any position can suffer a season ending injury at any time. But the longevity of running backs is especially poor. Most are out of the league within three to five years, while quality players at other positions routinely play 10, 15, as much as 20 years in the league. A running back with 10 years in the league is unusual, and high paying FA contracts for backs rarely come much after their 30th birthday. Indeed, when the Bucs signed Doug Martin to his new contract earlier this year, a lot of the critics said… Read more »

Devasher
5 years ago

You nailed it Gary. Winston is the best and has a very bright future. He just needs some more weapons around him. Make the move up to reunite him with Dalvin Cook and you would have a pretty epic three-headed monster.

76Buc
5 years ago

Has any team ever had this many guys on IR? Even a Buc team? I need help with this. Scu? Mac? Horse? I have no idea if we even have some studs coming back.

scubog
Reply to  76Buc
5 years ago

76: I don’t think the issue with injuries this season was as much about the players placed on IR as it was the injuries that depleted certain position groups for a game or two. In my mind the players on IR had little impact other than having to bring in street free agents to replace them. Other than Brate, who was only placed on IR this week, no player was a devastating loss unless you count Horse’s favorite player, Ben Gottschalk. Of the players on IR, I’m curious as to what J.R. Sweezy and Devante Bond will bring next season.… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

You’re forgetting VJ. His being on IR, or perhaps his substandard play, certainly were missed, as it allowed defenses to key in on and routinely double-cover Mike Evans. Sweezy being unavailable on the O-line certainly hindered its performance. And Jacquies Smith, who was our best end rusher a year ago when he was healthy, certainly was missed, especially some of those early season games when the injury bug was hitting our defensive line. It is obvious that injuries were a huge factor in the outcome of this season, probably cost us at least a couple of games, which couple of… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

I didn’t forget #83. His play was in obvious decline and may not have been much better than what we got from Sheppard and the other nondescript attempts to fill his spot.

Horse
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Scubog, I’m not saying Gottschalk is a stud, I see him making the team and replacing Hawley. The guy played most of the pre season and when Hawley and Smith went down he came right in and played better than they did before being injured. Will he start? Don’t know. Koetter also mentioned him in his Press Conference this past week. I bet he puts on the 10 lbs to be that 300 lb goal of yours, but not all Centers are 300 pounds.

scubog
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I know not all centers are 300+ pounds, but one of your objections to Hawley and Smith is that they are “too small” when they are bigger than Gottschalk.

76Buc
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

That all makes sense Scubog. Thanks. I just thought the numbers were nuts.

Iowabucfan
5 years ago

Thanks, Gary!

scubog
5 years ago

Having seen and been hopeful that each one is the “savior”; Jameis Winston, in spite of his imperfection, is still the best of the mostly miserable bunch. He has what can’t be taught…………”IT”. Give the youngster some legitimate weapons and not just bodies filling a position and he’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. I hope I didn’t put that in jeopardy by buying a Winston jersey yesterday.

Naplesfan
5 years ago

I cannot disagree that Winston is the best quarterback the Bucs have ever dressed … but that’s also a mighty low bar to clear. Yesterday Winston’s performance was typical of his tenure here … brief moments of quality play swimming in a wide sea of poorly thrown passes (for some reason he has a huge tendency to overthrow), holding onto the ball too long, poor decisions, etc. Winston is no longer a rookie so those errors in play are not excusable as rookie mistakes. The end result, the one that Shelton is climbing up on the rooftop to celebrate, was… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

He plays with passion and heart; nothing wrong with this type of person. Koetter said it in Press Conferences we have to get some more Offensive Tools.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

Yes, we need more talent on the offense.

Given a choice between the two Ps – Passion, and Playmaking – I’ll take the latter every time. I don’t care if a player is a zombie as long as he makes plays.

cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

The overthrows are over striding as koetter himself pointed out. You all seem to forget, this guy was a pitcher his entire life. That’s going to take a little time to get rid of. As for poor desicion making I sure hope you aren’t pining that int on jameis when it hit Humpheries right in the hands. Hel is bet he has at least 4 picks this year off of receives hands. He does need to improve desicion making in general though and he should run it a little more at times. But I don’t see any reason to complain… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

I agree with you CG and I believe Winston will get better in the coming seasons of play, not only with his mechanics, but we can expect he will improve his maturity too. Heck he’s only 22 years old, playing in a game where most of the great players are well into their 30s with a lot of years of league play under their belts.

Buc 1976
5 years ago

I’m a Winston fan but I really think he needs to stop the pre game pep talk calm down maybe go over his fundamentals and game plan so when he goes on the field he can lead and not over throw to many high balls to open Receiver s he seems to amped up in 1st QT

cgmaster27
Reply to  Buc 1976
5 years ago

Absolutely not because if he’s not giving pep talks , McCoy is, and all he talks bout his having fun. Haha

drdneast
5 years ago

Your right Naplesfan, yesterday was a microcosm of the woes that affect Jameis Winston. Dropped balls by receivers, four alone by Russell Shepherd, spotty offensive line play leading to sacks and fumbles and balls clanging off the hands of receivers into the grasps of the defenders. This time by the reliable Adam Humphries. Yup, Winston displayed all those odd characteristics yesterday. However, you are right about 11 people make up a win. So lets look at Winston’s weapons this year. Mike Evans. Great lineup of star players, huh. Yes, Adam Humphries is a good “third” receiver and Cameron Brate is… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

Well, yes and no. We can’t hold Winston responsible for two of the receivers he’s counted on in the past not being in the lineup – VJ and Cameron Brate. Not having his two best pass-catching running backs (Sims and Martin) also hampered the offense. But on the other hand, Winston did have the two top touchdown-scoring receivers in the league at their respective positions of WR and TE. Every time someone says “Winston had no weapons”, that’ just flat out ridiculous. Few teams have more than two reliable starting receivers capable of leading the league, or being very near… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

And how about coming up with something more intelligent (i.e., non stupid sounding) than labeling everybody who isn’t a dedicated Winston fan as a “Winston hater”? I am neither. Most of us here are Bucs fans and all we care about is the Bucs success, and are not dedicated fanboys or haters of any particular player.

cgmaster27
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

Honestly I thought yesterday was one of Jameis’ worst games of the season. Something was just off. However, the pick wasn’t on him , and we had an unusual amount of drops yesterday. The whole day on offense as a whole was just off. We got it when it counted though and that’s what matters.

chipbuc
5 years ago

Naplesfan you can’t have it both ways. Are Evans and Brate in the top level of the league by themselves ? Or is it they have Winston throwing them the ball. So to say Winston should do better with his offensive players he has, i say he has done pretty good with the talent he has to work with. So give him a real number 2 wr, a real threat at running back , and a few players who can get YAC ,we are currently last in the league in that department. It would be nice if Winston could occasionally… Read more »

cgmaster27
Reply to  chipbuc
5 years ago

Koetter said as much himself about our team in his last presser. We need speed, serious speed, and we don’t have that. We need it a WR and RB. Jameis does make those around him better, I’ve been watching it for the last 4 years. We just need a few more people around him to take the load off a bit, and that includes a running game.

Mike.Seven
5 years ago

I think I am in denial land !!! What a power house offence Yesterday 10 Points a field goal and one TD drive starting in side own 50 yard line a interception a fumble 5 punts ! As always I am happy with the D and get sick watching the O The QB is 86 rated -18 interceptions to be number 2 in league most int. This site thinks they have good QB , I do think the coaches know they have problem at QB they will not keep him starting whole season if he does not fix his problems… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Mike.Seven
5 years ago

Well, enjoy living in denial land, cause Jameis isn’t going anywhere. The rest of us will keep living in the real world where we acknowledge our QB’s faults, but also acknowledge his strengths. We also can objectively look at why his INT total was high this season. We look at the factors that contributed to his play and turnovers. But, you just keep living in denial land and being against your teams QB. Hope they have WiFi there.

drdneast
5 years ago

You might be living in denial Mike, but I prefer to think you are looking at Winston with blinders on. Particularly when it comes to his TO’s. 18 INT’s might seen like a lot, unless you consider how many of them occurred. Lets just look at the Dallas game where he threw four and examine how and where three of them occurred. One was a hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. Another was on a ball where his arm was hit by a defender because of a poor block and his final INT occurred at the… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

Dr. D: Naples considers himself and his opinions and perceptions, which in his mind are facts, to be superior to all others.

Mike.Seven
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

All the QB that play a season throw hail marys and get a few int , This QB does not set correctly , he throws high on a lot of open receivers , the first year his style froze some defenders, this year about the Bronco game the Defences started to figure him out The D won most of the games this year keeping there opponents under 16 points on the last half of season. 3-maybe 4 games were lost due INT fumbles and penalties like the stupid one in Dallas. I would love see Bucs in playoffs next year… Read more »