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FAB 1. Winston’s Woeful Start

Did you know that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston became the team’s all-time leading passer in Sunday’s 31-17 loss to San Francisco?

It’s only fitting that Winston, who now has 14,822 yards, passed Trent Dilfer (12,969 yards), Josh Freeman (13,534 yards) and Vinny Testaverde (14,820 yards) in Tampa Bay to make history.

All four of those quarterbacks were first-round draft picks by the Bucs and three of those four didn’t get contract extensions from the team after their rookie deal expired. Will Winston, who is in his fifth-year option, follow down that dubious path?

He will if he keeps throwing interceptions, which is another thing he has in common with Testaverde, Dilfer and Freeman – a high amount of picks that stem from poor decision-making. All four quarterbacks have thrown their share of mind-numbing interceptions, the latest of which came from Winston on Sunday on an ill-advised screen pass which was returned for a game-clinching touchdown by the 49ers.

Winston, a Heisman Trophy-winning national champion at Florida State, was supposed to be different – a game-changer at the QB position in Tampa Bay. He was supposed to be a winner, losing just one college game in two years with the Seminoles.

Instead, since becoming the first overall draft pick in 2015, Winston’s record as a starter in Tampa Bay is 21-34, including Sunday’s loss to the 49ers in which he threw three interceptions with two of those being returned for touchdowns.

Because of Winston’s penchant for turnovers, Winston is now 6-18 over the last three seasons as a starter, and that includes Sunday’s loss.

Bucs’ Record With Winston As The Starter

2015: 6-10
2016: 9-7
2017: 3-11
2018: 3-6
2019: 0-1

That’s far from winning football.

Stop me if you’ve heard this all before, because in my 24 years of covering the Bucs – I’ve just about seen and heard it all before.

I’ve heard Dilfer promise the local Tampa media again and again after loss after loss that he would become a great quarterback one day. He never did.

Ex-Bucs QB Josh Freeman - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Ex-Bucs QB Josh Freeman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I’ve heard Freeman struggle to find the words after three-interception games with that bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights look he would have in his post-game press conferences. He never found the words – or stopped making bad decisions.

I didn’t see Testaverde play in Tampa Bay, but I know that his franchise-record 112 interceptions in six years with the Bucs were 42 more interceptions than Dilfer threw in his six years with the team. Testaverde’s 267 career interceptions rank second behind Brett Favre’s 336 as the second-most in NFL history.

With Winston … I just don’t know. I want to believe in this guy – and I have since he was in five straight PewterReport.com mock drafts in 2015 – but he sure is making it difficult with days like Sunday, isn’t he?

After his three-pick performance against San Francisco, Winston has now thrown 61 interceptions, which ranks as the sixth-most in Tampa Bay history. Two more picks and he’ll move past Steve DeBerg into fifth place. With seven more interceptions this year – and you know they’re coming – he’ll move past Freeman’s 66 and begin to challenge Doug Williams (73) and Dilfer (80) for second place behind Testaverde.

This is nothing new. I’ve written about Winston’s interceptions before and implored him to stop turning the ball over before in an SR’s Fab 5 last year, sensing disaster was just about to happen.

And it did.

That column came out on the Friday before Winston’s four-interception meltdown in Cincinnati last year in a 37-34 loss that prompted Dirk Koetter to bench him – and justifiably so.

Are we asking a leopard to change his spots here?

Bucs QB Jameis Winston
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

The maddening thing about Winston is that he does make plays – great plays – and score touchdowns. His 89 TD passes are the most in Tampa Bay history, and he’s thrown 28 more touchdowns than he has interceptions.

That’s a better TD-to-INT differential than Brad Johnson, who had 64 TDs and 41 INTs (23), Jeff Garcia, who had 25 TDs and 10 INTs (15), Mike Glennon, who had 30 TDs and 15 INTs (15), Freeman, who had 80 TDs and 66 INTs (14), Brian Griese, who had 32 TDs and 26 INTs (six), Shaun King, who had 26 TDs and 20 INTs (six) and Craig Erickson, who had 34 TDs and 31 INTs (three).

All other notable Bucs QBs, including Testaverde, Dilfer, Steve DeBerg, Steve Young and Chris Simms, all have more interceptions than touchdowns in their Tampa Bay careers. Bucs Ring of Honor member Doug Williams finished his time in Tampa Bay with 73 touchdowns and 73 picks.

There are 15 games left in the season, and Winston just played in his first real game in a different offense than the one he played in under Dirk Koetter for the first four years of his NFL career. Playing well on Thursday night in Carolina and coming out with a win would quickly turn around the narrative surrounding Winston. Is that too much to ask of a player in a big contract year? Winston has helped engineer some tough road wins in the past in Philadelphia, Kansas City, San Diego, New Orleans, Atlanta and even Carolina. It can be done – if he can avoid the critical turnover.

Regardless of the system, or the quarterbacks coach, or the offensive coordinator or the head coach, shouldn’t a fifth-year quarterback like Winston know better than to make an errant throw on first down when that screen pass was covered up by the 49ers defense? Shouldn’t he know by now to throw the ball in the dirt?

That’s what I asked Arians in Monday’s press conference.

“He was under pretty good duress, but yeah, you would hope,” Arians said.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs were hoping Winston would be the long-awaited savior at the quarterback position – a dynamic playmaker that could go toe-for-toe and throw-for-throw with the likes of Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in the NFC South.

The Bucs were hoping that Arians, “the quarterback whisperer,” would be the one to turn Winston around and have him cut down on his driving-killing and win-preventing turnovers.

Time is running out for Winston to prove that he can be Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback.

And hope is running out, too.

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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 protected]
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sunshineben

How many years do you give Winston on his play on the field before bucs mgt decide to move . isn’t going on 5 years enough? (not including his personal lapses)

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Spitfire

It’s this year. He has this year. If he doesn’t cut it they’ll be Drafting another QB. If he does cut it then he will stay, especially since there’s been no evidence of personal lapses since entering the NFL.

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niko521

This goes for spitfires comment too… For those who want to give up on winston, we are NOT drafting a QB next year. You draft a QB with the no 1, 2 or 3 spot in the draft. the Bucs, even if they win only 6 games, will be drafting 8-11. Your looking at years of Free Agent Nick Foles, Keenum, Cousins type QBs, not another franchise. you have to go 2-14 to get that. As for Sunshine Ben and all others, lets play a game about Winstons “Personal issues” How many Jameis Winston transactions or problems has he committed… Read more »

JordyNYC

I think you need to add some context to Winston’s interceptions against San Fran. 2 of them were not on Winston as one bounced right out of OJ’s hands and one of the pick 6s was a result of a wrong route by the receiver. The other pick 6 though… yuck.

I’m sick of this crap, too, but not all interceptions are created equally.

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Spitfire

I still think they should add an INT category. If a ball is catchable and bounces off a receiver then it should count against the Receiver, not the QB.

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fredster

You give him this whole year Ben. Dumb question to ask. No 3 1/2 years isn’t enough given the defense was worst in league most that time and no run game. He hasn’t played 5 years or even 4. You think that’s a formula for success or any QB would be much better? If you do then your stupid. The run game needs to be average and it looks like it might but it’s been 1 game. Will see. The defense look ls like it can be average finally too. So if he doesn’t have good year and those two… Read more »

76Buc

fredster you very often make some very astute observations, but you seem to always want to put people down. You can argue successfully without calling fellow buc fans/poster’s questions stupid, retarded, dumb, ect. (except for B-A-B.)

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bucianco

Before you blast someone with such ferocity for stating their opinion, you might want to consider running your comment through a grammar checker, or a friend. I think it will help. If not, maybe try an anger management therapist? Just thinking outside the box here.

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thewbacca

Yeah, I stopped reading after “your stupid”. I don’t need sports comments to have perfect spelling and grammar, but come on now.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

If you go back to the days before they drafted Winston there a lot of experts calling him great and they were a lot of experts give a negative reports on him.
Tampa Bay chose to ignore all the negative information that was out on Winston.For the life of me I can’t imagine what they were thinking but it looks like it’s going to be a seven-year mistake

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Buc stops here

Best article I have seen on Winston – both the hopes and the failures. Can only hope he can turn it around but as is very true, time is running out for him to do it and get a new contract in Tampa.

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FLBoy84

Would’ve liked to see Barrett go for the strip sack when he took down Garoppolo, being that he was cocked to throw the ball. Will take any sack obviously, but turnovers need to become a regular focus.

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MizzouBucs24

I’m going put my #3 jersey on tomorrow night and root for the Bucs to win. I hope Jameis has the game of his life. Then I’m going to do the same thing every week after. Why you say? Because I’m a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!!! At the end of the season if Jameis is gone then I will hang his jersey in my closet right next to the Freeman jersey never to be worn again. Then we will get another QB and I will buy his jersey and wear it for every game he plays for the… Read more »

niko521

you should be writing a blog. Great read (your comment).

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owlykat

Great article again Scott. Three of our former QBs that had bad interception rates with us went to teams with better OLs than us and WON 3 SUPER BOWLS: Williams, Young, and Dilfer. And every QB who has played for us has played behind poor OLs and had bad interception ratios. What does that tell you? Fix our OL and you fix Jameis! BA is working on it by finally cutting Benenoch who can never be developed! As our OL improves this team will WIN!

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Naplesfan

Very good point owlykat. But fixing our O line has never been a priority with Jason Licht. He simply tries to make do and it results in poor offensive line play, year after year after year.

Put any quarterback behind Dallas front five, and he’d look pretty darn good.

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Ron Potter

I think the recent signing to replace Benenoch was just as much to send a message to Dotson as it was to cut Benenoch. Dotson made rookie mistakes/penalties in first game of season that cost us points while actual rookies had zero penalties. BA said penalties cost us game and Dotson was definitely a part of that. Hopefully Dotson feels more urgency to clean up his game now that Benenoch is gone.

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FLBoy84

Vividly remember the Freeman start vs the Jets unfortunately and recall wanting to fly up and smack Freeman around a bit to wake him up. Unreal start to a game, would love to know the real story behind it. And then to have LVD get that phantom personal foul penalty (Smith was still inbounds on the hit) near the end to set up their FG just capped it off.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

The 49ers had four touchdowns taking back with penalties 49ers played very sloppy a real good top team would’ve won that game by 70 points five years is enough send The BUST to another team . Let him be a back up and compete for a job the best thing in the world for him he’s any good he’ll improve their

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BUC-ASS-BOB

I have been screaming for 2 years this team needed serious answers from serious people there answer was to cut 7 good players to make room for a bust QB and fat O lineman Now one of the players they cut is the NFL player of the week and the quarterback they kept had 45percent rating. And Fredster making excuses calling me a moron.

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76Buc

Will Rogers never met fredster(or you).

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BucFan circa76

BAB, you are a moron, always have been, always will be. Oh, and your beloved Broncos are 0-2 and sucking wind…..losing to Oakland (who was horrible last season and besieged by distractions all preseason), and Dah-Beahs (in Denver). The Bucs & Winston will be fine, not sure about your Mile High Morons.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

If you go back to the days before they drafted Winston there a lot of experts calling him great and they were a lot of experts give a negative reports on him.
Tampa Bay chose to ignore all the negative information that was out on Winston.

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Buc-Up

SR, has anyone in the Bucs organization or the media pressured Winston to try wearing his contacts prescription goggles on the field?

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/9941415/jameis-winston-florida-state-seminoles-says-squinting-habit

I still think it’s his actual vision. I think he’s in denial that his his being nearsighted doesn’t affect his play. He’s like an elderly person that refuses to walk with a cane and is always falling down. They letbrheir pride get in the way.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

When you’re watching De Sean Jackson Flapping wings and doing somersaults in NFL highlights after those long TDS Don’t be mad at me you should be mad at Jason licht and the glaziers .

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bucballer

21-34 over career… 6-18 last three years! That is just stunning to this Buc fan! I mean we all lived it but damn! Jameis has led us to 2 wins a year the last 3 years. Wow! I like Jameis. I really do. I know it not ALL Jameis fault. Yes! I know this! But at some point he has to show us that he can win a game too! He needs to make the throws to win the game. How do u even begin to start contract talks for 22-25 mill a year for a $100 mill plus contract?… Read more »

spartan

So what’s the “shocking story” then?

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FinkleisEinhorn

Yeah, sick of PR constantly mentioning these cryptic, obscure remarks about Freeman. But then when readers implore, PR says, “Oh, we can’t discuss it.”

Then just quit mentioning it altogether.

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bucballer

Parnell Dickinson could get the Bucs 6 wins out of 48 games… about the glasses… I think ur right… Kameis seems to squint an awful lot. Surely, the team knows this and has tested him right? I’m a die hard Buc fan from 75! It’s when we were awarded an expansion team and no the owner was NOT Huge Culverhouse! Do u know that Culverhouse was so cheap that he let Doug Williams walk through free agency over about $100,000?!

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scubog

Been there right with you bucballer. It sure hasn’t been easy giving up my hometown Steelers in their mid-70’s heyday for our own expansion team.

“Paydirt” Dickinson was one of the early hopefuls along with “Why Not Minot” Hedberg and countless others. My goodness that list of failed QB’s is a long one. I sure hope Jameis succeeds. I’m getting too old to wait for a 2020 rookie.

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SenileSenior

Fab 1:  Amen to that! Fab2:  Again, Amen. Fab3:  Would it not be great if Barrett had 9 or 10 sacks for the season at least.  Nassib comes in with 8.  David, Suh and Vea all have 6 and others contribute as well.  (JPP is able to come back for the last six or seven games and is able contribute a few sacks also.) Fab 4:  They might play some music in the locker room sometime during the week after a game.  After any losses use selected up tempo music that would appeal to the various players tastes.  For a… Read more »

76Buc

Yes, I want to know what the shock story was!!!! OBT, if Winston throws 13 int’s by game 7 we are doomed and so is he.

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SenileSenior

Bravo, MizzouBucs24! I am rooting for the Bucs no matter what happens. I am pulling for Bruce Arians and his coaching staff to achieve a turnaround here this year and next. I am hoping this year’s draft plus all of the other personnel decisions this year will demonstrate a positive change. I am hoping that together Licht and Arians will make decisions superior to those of LIcht and Koetter or Licht and Smith in the past. I am hoping Licht and Arians together will outperform Arians and his previous GM as well. _________________ Go Bucs!!! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

surferdudes

I’ve wondered about the glasses thing with Jameis too. Can someone from PR answer that question, does he wear contacts on game day? I’ve been calling for Dotson’s replacement for the last two years now. There’s no way the two new tackles we just signed can’t be any better. If they’re not, why did we sign them? I’m pulling for Jameis, always have, but it’s hard for me to believe he’s all of a sudden going to sop throwing picks. You know where I live on FL’s east coast the game was not shown on T.V.. I had to go… Read more »

Naplesfan

There is not a lot to be gained from comparing Winston’s performance to former Bucs quarterbacks from decades ago when the game was played very differently than it is today. Today’s NFL offenses are much more pass heavy, a lot more short passes that frequently substitutes for a rushing attack, the rules are much more favorable to quarterbacks and receivers than they are for defenders. It is more helpful to compare Winston’s performance with his contemporaries around the league for the last several years, where everybody is playing with the same rule books, and have more or less the same… Read more »

Ron Potter

Did a quick read-thru and surprised not to see Vinny Testaverde’s name in that top 5 list. I guess none of his really bad games were the first game of the season?

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bucianco

Winston, through all of his mistakes, is a pretty decent QB. Not top 5 but still pretty good. Mistakes? Yep! Great throws from time to time? Yep! Will he ever be top 5? Not in my book, but I would rather have him than several others that are currently starting elsewhere. Out of 32 starters I would place him around 20 or so. Matthew Stafford, while not considered a top 10 QB, is still considered to be pretty darn good. Took his team to the playoffs 3 times so far. Compare Winston’s numbers to Matthew Stafford’s for the first 4… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

What matters in the end are wins. If Bucs have a winning season it is because Winston did enough to contribute. Does that mean he is re-signed? Automatically not necessarily. Then again Winston can play lights out and the Bucs end up with a record below .500. Like I said many times, winning hides a lot of flaws. Bucs win with Jameis and that will allow Jameis to grow confident in playing to live another day instead of looking for the big play. Winston is overthinking things when most plays are very simple. I watched the Falcons and Matt Ryan… Read more »

BucRy

If Winston has another bad game tomorrow night, he needs to be benched.

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bucballer

“Being challenged”… r u serious? BA came here knowing what Jameis is/was. He built this offense around Jameis! He’s being asked to be a distributor of pigskin. We don’t need u to try and win the game just facilitate. Hit ur check downs and use ALL ur talent and attributes. See a “go” route open, then sling it. This offense wasn’t built for the amount of drive killing, touchdown killing, penalties and turnovers. It’s like that. Execute the offense and minimize the negative and costly fumbles and INTs. That’s what BA wants from Jameis… if he didn’t think Jameis could… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

Agreed.

Bucs have talented skill players on offense. Arians understands what he wants but Winston has to see the bigger picture of orchestrating full drives.

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bculaw

I’d love to see the coach’s film of this game. There weren’t many uncontested catches and JW looked uncomfortable from start to finish. Was he indecisive, or did he just have nowhere to throw the ball. 9ers defensive backs were believed to be soft coming into the game, but they sure seemed like they were blanketing our Wars pretty well.

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bucballer

Only Jameis can control what happens to Jameis!

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bucballer

I’m not sure how of u Buc fans actually live in Tampa, but I’d like to make a comparison with the Rays. Pitcher Chris Archer and QB Jameis Winston. Both had that IT factor. Both showed good stuff at times, in fact, Pro Bowl and All Star fire power. Both were fan favorites and their jerseys were plentiful in the stands. In the end, Archer was dealt for younger players and is still, with the Pirates a sub .500 pitcher with flashes of brilliance. Perhaps that is all Jameis is/will be? At some point you have to live up to… Read more »

BucFan circa76

Thats a lousy comparison. Archer, after all, was not the #1 overall draft pick in baseball, he was a 5th round selection by (not Tampa Bay) Cleveland, then traded to the Cubs, then the Rays. So, he was a journeyman before he even arrived here, and now gone. Winston is not even our worst 1st overall pick, not by a long shot.

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Johnny Cannons

Just watched the game today. Jameis wasn’t good enough, but didn’t have help on offense. Didn’t even think the officiating was that horrible outside of toe questionable calls. Also didn’t think the play calling was horrible, though still kinda vanilla. Offense writ large has a long way to go, though.

Told y’all about Shaq Barrett. This man is the truth, and I hope he gets a multi year contract. In Tampa.

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niko521

Scott, that’s great that you’ve followed the team for 24 years, this is my 40th anniversary as a Bucs die hard. VINNY was brought in an era when ownership was too cheap, and he cut his interceptions down when he got better coaching in New York with Jets under Parcells. Dilfer never shined as a QB, and at best looked like a Game Manager. only QB to get CUT after winning a Super Bowl. Freeman never had his heart in football. Jameis is unlike all of these examples, to give up on a 25 year old QB who is going… Read more »