Who would you pick to replace Winston?

by Gary Shelton on January 23, 2020

in general

Winston has a mixed legacy with the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

If another team wants to intercept Jameis Winston on his way to work, well, I'm all for it.

He is a frustrating player to watch, isn't he? He'll be a roll, and then he'll throw a down-and-out to an opposing cornerback, who is suddenly running toward the scoreboard, and the day is lost. Again.

Might I remind you that Winston threw the most interceptions (30) in 21 seasons in the NFL. He defied all the trends that have helped quarterbacks throw fewer interceptions (throwing the ball away when out of the pocket, liberalized holding, limited contact by defensive backs, throwing to backs out of the backfield, etc.).

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Thirty. That's 30 drives that were stopped because Winston didn't take enough care of the ball. That's a potential of 210 more points. That's 30 sudden changes that a defense has to play against.

So, yeah, I'm as fed up as many of you. I've seen enough. I think Winston will cut down on his interceptions, but he'll still throw too many. It simply isn't important enough for him to stop it.

The Bucs without Winston? It isn't as daunting as you might think. Heck, it isn't like they're winning Super Bowls because of him. He's never been to the playoffs. Sure, he throws for a lot of yardage, and a lot of touchdowns, but he doesn't collect a lot of wins.

Here's the thing, though.

Who are you gonna call?

After all, dumping Winston -- and the potential fortune he would make -- is only half of the equation. You still have to find someone to play quarterback. You owe that to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

If any team should realize this, it's the Bucs. They chased Josh Freeman with Mike Glennon, who wasn't very good. They followed Trent Dilfer with Shaun King, who had only sporadic success before giving way to Brad Johnson. They replaced Vinny Testaverde with Craig Erickson. They followed Doug Williams with Jack Thompson.

So, yeah, you can always do worse.

But can the Bucs do better?

A lot of guesswork lately has connected the Bucs and San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who evidently has purchased a home in Florida. Those are easy dots to connect, but do they make sense? Rivers is 38, which means that it would take two moves (at least) to replace Winston: One with Rivers and one with the guy who will be groomed for the starting job. Rivers throws a lot of interceptions, too. He threw 20, and he threw only 23 touchdowns (10 fewer than Winston). Rivers has three seasons with 20 interceptions or more. But he's made eight Pro Bowls, which means he'd probably be better for a season or two. But is that enough to watch Winston from elsewhere?

The golden fleeces in free agency are Tom Brady and Drew Brees, both aging but excellent quarterbacks. But in a million years, can you see either quarterback leaving teams that are built around them? Saints' general manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday that the Saints want Brees back. How many more millions would the Bucs have to offer for him to move? More than you can count?

The one hope with Brady is that the Patriots have a history of turning loose of players a year early. But remember how dearly Pats' owner Robert Kraft loves Tom Brady. I can't see him in another uniform.

There was Eli Manning before Wednesday. Manning retired, leaving a legacy as a spotty quarterback who won the big game twice.

There is Andy Dalton, whose name Bucs' fans started throwing around early. Dalton has been a good -- not great -- quarterback for the Bengals, but he's coming off a season when he won two games and had a career-low rating of 78.3. He's reached four playoffs, but lost in the first round each time.

There is Cam Newton, who is intriguing. He was the league MVP in 2015. If he's healthy -- and that's a big if -- then he may be worth a flier if the Bucs decide to move on. He's just 30, which means he's worth bringing for a visit (and a physical).

There is Marcus Mariota. That would be amusing, wouldn't it, if the Bucs now picked Marota over Winston after doing the opposite. It won't happen. Mariota will have to scramble for a backup slot.

There is Blake Bortles. I will now pause while you laugh. Again, he'll be looking for a backup spot.

There is Teddy Bridgewater, who played very well for the Saints. He lacks Winston's ability, but most quarterbacks do.

There is Justin Herbert, the rookie out of Oregon. Look, a team doesn't get into the position to draft Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa from the 14th slot. It has to hope that Herbert slips in the draft. That doesn't usually happen with quarterbacks, but the Bucs could entertain a slight move upward if they're sold on Herbert.

It is a list like this that has a lot of observers guessing that after kicking the tires on a lot of quarterbacks, the Bucs will work out a one-year deal with Winston. Except for Brady and Brees, who started playing during the war of 1812, there are warts on all of them.

That's life in the NFL. It's tough to find a quarterback if you don't have one.

And if you have half of one?

Then you're between a rock and a bad throw.

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