What comes next for Winston? Could it be stardom?

by Gary Shelton on September 10, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston has had great moments, but he's unfinished./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston has had great moments, but he's unfinished./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 3 a.m.

He is still a child. He just got there. The price tags are still on him.

As you prepare to judge Jameis Winston, all over again, try to keep that in the back of your mind.

He is the leader here. You hear his voice above all overs, and he see him strut in front of his team. You may grow weary of the way he grows weary of questions about his turnovers. You want him to be all polished and all grown up and to lead his Bucs to the post-season.

But, still, he is a colt on wobbly legs. He is learning as he goes.

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Will Winston grow into stardom?CARMEN MANDATO

Will Winston grow into stardom?CARMEN MANDATO

No one wants to hear that about Winston, not after 32 starts and more than 8,000 yards. Already, he has completed 657 passes. Isn't that enough of a trial period? Isn't it time he was a smart, efficient veteran?

Well, maybe not.

I read two stories Saturday about Winston. One wondered if he could be the "face of the NFL." One stated that his MVP odds had increased. I think Winston is good, but I don't think he's in either conversation yet. Still, I like the kid. I like his hunger. I like his intangibles. I like his arm.

But still, he's 23. No one conquers the world at 23.

Again, no one is asking you to temper your enthusiasm when it comes to Winston. Heck, Buc fans have been waiting a long time to matter again.

But keep this in mind. When Tom Brady was Winston's age, he threw all of three passes for the Patriots. he completed one. No one was talking about the greatest of all time then.

At 23, Joe Montana started one game. John Elway won four games. Philip Rivers started two. Drew Brees and Brett Favre were in their first seasons as starters. Jim Kelly wasn't even in the league yet. Joe Namath threw 27 interceptions.

In other words, Winston is years ahead of where you might expect him to be as a starter. He inherited a team that won two games, and since then, most of the load has been on his shoulders.

Is it time for Winston?

Maybe.

But keep this in mind, too. Peyton Manning's best year came when he was 28. Brady was 30. Montana was 33. Elway was 33. Young quarterbacks often come with rough edges.

When he was 23, Manning went from a quarterback who won three games to one who won 13. He reduced his interceptions from 28 to 15.

None of that means you shouldn't be frustrated when Winston screws up. It does mean that you should realize that he remains a work in progress. You don't just flip on a switch and get instant quarterback.

Around here, of course, you cannot see red and pewter without seeing Winston's eyes flash in the same photo. This is his parade, and the Bucs will go where he leads.

Can he get off to a better start than his other seasons? Can he energize an offense that was sluggish during the regular season? Can he take advantage of new weapons? Can he reduce turnovers without becoming overly conservative?

When it comes to Winston, all are valid questions.

Look, we'd all like Winston to be sleeker, deadlier, more precise. We'd like to see his rating rise above its 85.2. We'd like to see him lop off another 4,000 yard season. We'd like to see him stay healthy.

Again, quarterbacking isn't a straight line. A guy grows. He gets better. He gets hungrier.

For Winston, two seasons -- and 15 wins -- is a decent start.

But it's what comes next that will shape his legacy.

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