What’s next for Jameis Winston, backup QB?

by Gary Shelton on November 1, 2018 · 4 comments

in general

Is Winston worth shouting about?/CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

What now?

What's next?

And who cares?

You are Jameis Winston, and you have dug yourself the deepest hole of your career. If you are honest -- and that never seems to have been a strength of yours -- you acknowledge that you are no longer married to the Tampa Bay franchise. You are behind Ryan Fitzpatrick -- far behind. That big payday you were certain was coming is no longer guaranteed. You seem to have one foot out the door.

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You are Jameis Winston, and if you aren't filled with doubts, well, you should be. Everyone else seems to doubt you. Your year has been lost. Your contract leverage has turned shaky. The team that made you its face is moving on without you. The fans have turned. The success indicators are gone.

In your career (49 games), you've thrown 54 interceptions. You've lost 16 fumbles. You've lost 29 games. (Josh Freeman, in five years, lost 35). You've thrown 603 incompletions.  You've been sacked 108 times. That's a lot of bad plays.

The trading deadline has passed, and so you are safe. But that's probably because other teams valued you even less than the one you are on. The fans? They would have pointed you toward the bus station. They're ready for you to be another team's headache.

A smart football player takes stock of himself. Well, your stock has never been lower. Those who somehow still believe in your talent do not believe in your character. Those who believe in your future do not believe in your present. Those who believe in your arm do not believe in your aim. The smell of "bust" is in the air.

Always before, you have eluded troubles like a reckless pass rusher. There were charges that didn't stick and deals to be made and second- and third- and 55th chances. But you have enough skills to offset it all, didn't you? You still found yourself in charge of a huddle. And, yes, you were good at FSU; you won a Heisman and a national title. But if FSU had reeled you in, maybe you wouldn't be so out of control now. Maybe you should think about that, too.

But what now? You are still here, but you are second-string, waiting for the other guy to falter. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a shaky resume, too. Surely, he cannot keep his excellence going. But how badly does he have to stumble, and how often, until Dirk Koetter summons you? The feeling is that it will be weeks, and when you do trot back onto a field, it isn't as if the crowd will be happy to see you.

People are angry, Jameis. You have  betrayed them too badly and too often. They do not trust you, and they don't particularly warm to you. You've never given satisfactory answers about your suspension, about the accusations against you in college, about your long list of turnovers (often with the game on the line). You have become the latest symbol of a team that doesn't get better. It spews the right things, and it makes the right promises, but the script remains the same.

Yeah, you throw for a ton of yards. We get that. But at the end of the day, who measures yards? You have four wins over the last two years. You've become a Lotto ticket; a nice payoff, but the odds are overwhelming against winning.

True, other quarterbacks have had interception problems early in their career. Peyton Manning. Terry Bradshaw. Jim Plunkett.  Doug Williams is thought of fondly around here, but after 49 career games, he had 57 interceptions; you have 54. Remember John Hadl, the old Charger? He had 57. Joe Namath, the Hall of Famer, had 71 (and his 5.8 interception rate is far above your 3.2.)

But the rules have never been kinder for a quarterback in the NFL. Liberalized holding. Restricted pass coverage. The ability to throw the ball out of bounds. Check-down passes are more in vogue. Throwing the ball away. Increased roughing-the-passer penalties.

In other words, a quarterback should throw fewer interceptions these days. Heck, Bucs opponents rarely throw incompletions, let alone interceptions (one  for the year). For the record, Marcus Mariota -- who hasn't been a ball of fire, either -- has 15 fewer interceptions than you in one fewer game.

And so you look in the mirror, and you wonder what happens next. Will you help to get this guy fired? Who signs up for the next tour, and does it include you? Does the receiving corps change, and if so, are your fingerprints on that, too?

For now, the smart thing for all sides is to let this play out. Oh, the frustration of the moment may want someone to simply shed the franchise of you, but that isn't prudent. Anyone interested in trading for you knows all about your history. They know that you can't be counted on, that you expect a big check, and that you pass like a dart-tosser throwing in the dark. This just in, Jamies: those teams don't want you, either.

Go down the list of quarterbacks. Which franchise would change with the Bucs? Arizona? Maybe. San Francisco? Jacksonville? There aren't many, and that's before anyone considers a new contract.

So you wait.

And you wait.

In the meantime, you try to get better. From here, it looks like a million-mile journey to be covered an inch at a time.

Accuracy is a big flaw of yours, Jameis. I'm not talking about the 15-yard, squeeze- it-into-a-tight-window-to-Mike-Evans pass. I'm talking about a deep ball, or a middle-range pass over the middle that sails. You know, the kind that ends up being caught by a guy in a wrong-colored shirt.

We've all heard about Drew Brees and his drills, the ones that emphasize accuracy. Maybe you should mimic those. Maybe you should start like a pee-wee player who doesn't know how many downs there are. Go back over your fundamentals; trust me, yours aren't very good.

No one wants to hear how you intend to get better. Show us. No one wants to hear you spout cliches instead of honest feelings. You've never acted as if you thought your interceptions were as big a problem as the rest of us think they are. Maybe you should reconsider.

Someone asked me a question the other day: How many quarterbacks are better in their second chances? Not many. Rich Gannon was. Steve Young was. Jim Plunkett was. But when most quarterbacks fail -- and you have failed -- the league quickly turns the page and goes to the next bit of talent.

You know who your career reminds me of, Jameis?

Remember Houston's David Carr, the No. 1 overall draft pick of 2002? He lasted five years (you're in your fourth) with Houston before settling in as the Giants' backup. Carr won 22 games;  you've won 19. He had 71 interceptions; you have 54. He threw for more than 14,000 yards. You're just shy of 13,000. He had a 3.5 interception rate; yours is 3.2. Carr is remembered as bust. How will you be remembered?

Remember Tim Couch? He was the No. 1 overall pick in 1999. He lasted five years, too. He won 22 games, too. He had an interception rate of 3.9. He threw 64 touchdowns and 67 picks. Yeah, he's in your team photo, too. Only dental records to separate the statistics.

Right now, you are Jameis Freeman, or Jameis Dilfer, or Jameis Testaverde. You are no different from all the other disappointments.

What happens next? How can you make the next chapter different from the ones we have read?

Work, that's how. Study. Practice. Grow up.

Otherwise, you'll be just another sequel as lousy as the first script.



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