Should Tampa Bay retain Jameis Winston?
This is an argument that has been ongoing since the day Jameis Winston was drafted back in April of 2015 and ongoing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fans all over social media. It has now come down to making a decision on should Tampa Bay retain its No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft: Should Tampa Bay retain Jameis Winston?
The argument can always slide both ways like Winston’s inconsistencies to play well throughout the measure of a regular season. Whether you want to look at Winston’s 4-touchdown days against the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams And Detroit Lions or you can delve deeper into how does one throw for five picks versus the Carolina Panthers and four against both the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. Nonetheless, Winston has yet to produce the kind of consistency that fans and even his own coaches alike would like to see from a game to game basis and there’s a lot to intake here when diagnosing the career of Winston to this point.
Turnover at head coach in Tampa Bay
Whether it’s been Winston under the guidance of Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter and now Bruce Arians, all have or are well regarded amongst those in NFL coaching circles. To be fair with the former, Smith, the now Illinois Illini head coach only got two seasons in Tampa Bay, in which he improved the Buccaneers from 2-14 to 6-10. A couple weeks after the season, however, saw the Glazers’ family dismiss Smith after just two seasons which could be tied for his desire to add more coaches to his staff, a demand met for Arians (largest staff in the NFL).
Enter Koetter, who was Smith’s offensive coordinator and had previous coordinating experience in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Albeit it was Koetter’s first head coaching gig in the NFL, the 2016 season was a hit. Despite Winston throwing 18 interceptions, Tampa Bay’s defense ranked in the top 15 en route to a 9-7 campaign. The success of 2016 brought upon major expectations for 2017, including with the signing of wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Those expectations weren’t met, as Tampa Bay floundered to a 5-11 record behind significant issues on the defensive side of the ball. The same issues parlayed into the 2018 campaign and a 3-game suspension of Winston after an embarrassing Uber incident in the off-season led to a surprisingly good start behind journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a 2-2 record, Winston was reinserted as the incumbent starter, but was benched after an awful showing versus the Cincinnati Bengals (four interceptions). The 2018 season ended with Winston getting another shot under Koetter and after a brief resurgence, Tampa Bay sputtered to another 5-11 record and the firing of Koetter.
Enter Arians, the self-proclaimed ‘quarterback whisperer’, who stated prior to the 2019 season that Tampa Bay already had a quarterback it could win with. After a 5,000-yard, 33-touchdown, 30-interception season, Arians sounded conflicted in comments after the season about Winston. The former Arizona Cardinals head coach mentioned things like ‘we will not beat ourselves next year’ and ‘we can win with this quarterback, we can definitely win with another one’ weren’t exactly badges of honor when it came to giving Winston any praise.
What’s behind Door No. 2?
What has to be answered whenever discussing moving on from a starting quarterback from a previous season is, is there someone better available via free agency or draft. When it comes to free agency, options seem plentiful but if you take a deeper look, many slated for free agency will likely return to their current teams. Players like Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill are all likely to return to their current clubs, while Phillip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater are two names that continue to be ones that float around as win-now signal callers that will demand top dollar.
One name that has been tied to Tampa Bay is Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, who coincidentally last time played a regular season game against the Buccaneers in Week 2 of 2019. Newton has been hindered by injuries and has proven when healthy, can be one of the NFL’s elite signal callers. The big question is if he can return to form and pushing the football downfield, a staple of Arians’ offense, hasn’t exactly been a strength of Newton’s, especially with a decline in his arm strength the last couple of years.
The 2020 NFL Draft does offer some potential options in the upper tier of picks, with Tampa Bay slated to select at No. 14, they may just miss out on any of the top prospects like Joe Burrows (LSU), Tua Tagovialoa (Alabama) and Justin Herbert (Oregon). With Tampa Bay in a win-now mode under a head coach that’s at the age of 67, it seems like Arians would not be interested in selecting a rookie quarterback to guide Tampa Bay to the playoffs. A little pundit to throw in is next year’s Super Bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium in 2021, and the Glazers would like the team to be in the best position possible to make a run to the playoffs.
Can Winston somehow limit the turnovers?
Winston has earned the title of being the NFL’s most volatile player after throwing for over 5,000 yards, 33 touchdowns but also giving the opposing team the ball 30 times via interceptions. Such numbers either warrant a long-term deal (5,000 yards; 33 touchdowns) or being released (30 interceptions) and that’s been the entertainment factor with the former Florida State product is his penchant for making every play entertaining, good or bad.
Though many fans would like to see more ball security at the starting quarterback position, many others also like the excitement play to play in addition to the yardage and touchdowns being thrown. Interceptions seem to be something that may never be limited under 11 or less, as Winston season by season has always thrown 10-plus picks per season.
2015: 15; 2016: 18; 2017: 11; 2018: 14; 2019: 30
There’s no easy decision to make here for Tampa Bay, as the franchise is in a limited window with Arians, as he may oversee the team for one or two more seasons. That would mean a win-now mentality is on hand at One Buc Place and handing the keys to another quarterback would mean someone who is a proven commodity and can take the franchise to another level. Those options seem limited when concerning quarterbacks who can guide a team to the postseason and win. Names like Brees, Brady, Rivers all apply when it comes to proven results, but all will likely take other avenues when signing with a club in the off-season.
The transition tag ($25 to $27 million) seems like the most appropriate option for Winston, as Tampa Bay wouldn’t be held to a long term contract but not be tied up to an access north of $30-million when it comes to resigning the five-year starter. Year 2 in Arians’ system is when quarterbacks make the jump and though any long term money to Winston would be a huge risk, the transition tag would limit Tampa Bay to one year worth and at the lowest price possible. Unless another suitor comes calling for Winston’s services, Tampa Bay would remain in line to have its starter for one more year under center. That doesn’t leave out the fact that the Buccaneers should prepare themselves with some sort of backup plan in case the season goes south ala of the Tennessee Titans with Tannehill for Marcus Mariota this past season.
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