FAB 4. Simms Talks About Winston, Arians
I had the chance to catch up with former Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms at the NFL Scouting Combine here in Indianapolis and we talked a little Bucs football. I always enjoyed covering Simms because of his great personality and his knack for being a straight shooter.
Simms was a third-round pick in 2004 and took over the starting job the next year, helping the Bucs go 11-5 with a 6-4 record as a starter, replacing Brian Griese, who broke his collarbone. Simms was the starter in 2006 and started off the season with six interceptions in the first two games of the year before rupturing his spleen in a 26-24 Week 3 loss against Carolina, which ended his season and derailed his NFL career. After sitting out the 2007 season, Simms played in a handful of games with Tennessee and Denver before retiring in 2009.
After working at Barstool Sports, Simms was recently hired by NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk and I interviewed him about his former team before one of his PFT Live segments, asking him if he thinks Arians can salvage Winston’s pro career.
“I would expect that Bruce has already done his due diligence in that department and thinks he is salvageable or probably wouldn’t have taken that job on,” Simms said. “I think it’s a win-win for both sides. First of all, for a guy like Jameis Winston, who has had some off-the-field issues and maybe it hasn’t gone as smoothly as we would like on the field, Bruce is going to be perfect for him. Not only is he a great coach and a great play designer – anything I’ve ever heard, whether it was with Carson [Palmer], or Peyton [Manning] or Big Ben [Roethlisberger] – he makes the quarterback feel like he’s in the fight with you. Like, ‘I’m playing with you and I’m living vicariously through you.’ If he throws a pick, he’s not just going to yell at you. It’s almost like a team effort at the quarterback position. That’s why I’m excited.
“Jameis Winston, as we know, it’s not always perfect on the field. There are some head-scratching moments where you go, ‘Damn, why would he throw that? Why did he try to throw the ball over his head backwards?’ Of course, some of the off-the-field stuff is annoying. But damn, Jameis Winston’s ‘good’ is really good. And when he has games where when he’s on, it makes my jaw drop consistently. This guy still has the potential to be one of the best – or better – quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s still extremely young and he’s done some extremely immature things on and off the field, and hopefully he’s correcting those things and going in the right direction.”
I asked Simms how he thinks Winston, who has a penchant for throwing interceptions, will mesh with Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” style, which could lead to more turnovers if he’s not careful.
“At the same time I think well, maybe that might make Jameis more comfortable and not second-guess himself sometimes [and say] ‘Oh gosh, I don’t want to throw an interception here’ – at times like that when you are comfortable you can see the field clearly, think more clearly because you know you are not going to be micromanaged the second you walk off the sidelines,” Simms said. “It could be a good thing, and hey going back to what you said about his college days, I thought that was a little overblown. He leads them to a national championship. He comes back the next year and they were not as good a football team. They couldn’t run and they couldn’t pass protect. For them to win games he kind of had to push the envelope with some of his throws, and yeah, he ended up with a few interceptions certainly, but they ended up back in the Final Four that year, and I can tell you that they were in the Final Four that year because of Jameis Winston and his ability to make some big time plays.”
The Bucs have had one of the league’s worst rushing attacks over the last two years, which hasn’t helped Winston’s development. Simms would love to see Tampa Bay get a running game to help Winston’s cause.
“You do [need a ground game], it takes the pressure off you,” Simms said. “The number one thing, and it’s not just about taking the pressure off you, one of the greatest advantages an offensive team has is the play-action pass. Again, I’d like to remind everybody in the world that thinks the NFL is going to the spread and they are going to throw it every play – did you watch the Patriots this year? Did you watch the Saints? Did you watch the Rams? Those were three of the top six running teams in football. They lined up in the I-formation and ran downhill a lot and because of their consistency and fortitude to run – even when it wasn’t there – it opened up play-action passes for Brees, Brady and Goff to where they were the best play-action pass teams in football.
“That’s where I look at it and go, it’s going to help pass protection, and it’s going to make the looks cleaner for Jameis Winston down the field. And for Jameis Winston, who is such a great thrower of the football between 15 and 30 yards down the field, that’s his wheelhouse – those type of plays. That’s where I want to see them get the run game going.”
NFL pundits claim that a running game is the quarterback’s best friend, but it’s actually a good defense, which Winston hasn’t really had to play with either during his time in Tampa Bay.
“[Playing from behind] can lead to more interceptions because you are pushing the envelope because you’re going, ‘Damn, I’ve only been on the field three plays because we went three-and-out and we’re down 14-0,’” Simms said. “Now as a quarterback, you have to make things happen. [A good defense] is a huge comfort tool for any quarterback. I’m not sure if that’s a word or a phrase – comfort tool – but regardless, people forget that early on in Tom Brady’s career they weren’t throwing the ball 50 times per game. They played defense. They ran the football. Brady won his first MVP throwing for 145 yards in the Super Bowl, and 50 of them were on the last drive of the game to set up the game-winning field goal. So he had 95 yards through 59 minutes of that football game throwing the football. What it allows you to do with a good defense, is it allows you to grow as a young player because I don’t need to force it.
“Coach [Jon Gruden] told me, ‘If we punt it, our defense is good and we’ll punt it here and live to play another day.’ That was a Jon Gruden phrase – live to play another day. We all micromanage and put the quarterback under a microscope, and give him way too much credit and too much fault no matter where the game goes now – more than ever before. It really drives me crazy as a member of the media – and a former quarterback – because the team matters. There is only one guy I’ve seen in my lifetime – or maybe a few guys like Elway or Aaron Rodgers – where it doesn’t really matter the team they have because they are that special physically and the way they can keep their team in it into the fourth quarter and make magic happen. But everybody needs a team around them.”
Check out Simms and PFT’s Mike Florio interviewing Arians at the NFL Scouting Combine.