Winston hasn’t changed, and he hasn’t grown

by Gary Shelton on October 17, 2019 · 2 comments

in general

Winston has 68 interceptions in 62 games./STEVEN MUNCIE

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Excuse me, porter. This is my stop.

I know, I know. We're halfway to the destination. But here is where I get off. Here is where I depart the Jameis Winston Express.

We all have our departure points, don't we? A great many people have gotten off the train before me. A few stubbornly hang on.

But for me, this is it. This is the point where I decide that Winston will always be Winston. He'll sail along for a few games, and he'll make a few

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highlights, and you will think that the worst is over. And then he'll Winston again, and the other team will be running his pass back the wrong way. He'll fumble. He'll take a silly sack. He'll lose.

I tried, you know. I wanted to like Winston, despite his college troubles. I wanted to believe a better day was coming. Heck, he had enough arm. He was smart enough. He wanted to be good. I still believe all of those things.

But some men walk down a path and stub their toes. Jameis is one of those. He means will, and he tries hard. But it's not a league where meaning well and trying hard are the goals. It's a production league, and too many times, Jaimes produces the wrong result.

This should be said. It hasn't been all of his fault. The tragic flaw of the Bucs is that they draft a kid, and they expect him to be the best player on the darned field. They don't want him to be. part of winning; they want him to be the reason for winning. And bad offensive lines and the meager running games and the pedestrian coaching all catch up.

Looking back, the Bucs were worse on Vinny Testaverde than he was on them. Trent Dilfer will tell you he never got decent quarterback coaching here. Josh Freeman was a tease because the Bucs crumbled around him.

And if you're honest, you'd have to admit that Winston has had his moments, too. He is far and away the team's leading quarterback in 100-plus rating days. He's thrown for more yardage and more touchdowns than anyone else.

But interceptions on are him like fleas on a hound. He's played 62 games, and he's thrown 68 picks. Add in his 43 fumbles, and he's had more than 100 turnovers in his career.

And winning? He's won eight games in three seasons. That's not enough.

Bruce Arians was supposed to change all of this, remember. Arians is the quarterback whisperer, the guy who turns careers around. But you can almost see Arians' eyes growing wider with the chaos in front of him. A whisper won't do the trick this time. A shout won't do it, either.

Let's don't fool ourselves. A lot of quarterbacks have simply rotten afternoons. That's part of the game. But do they have four four-interception days in five years? Yes, Winston is capable of putting up 55 points against the Rams, but he's capable of gift-wrapping points for the other team, too. The latter happens more times than the former.

And here's the thing, too. Other quarterbacks get better. I've written a lot about how many interceptions that Peyton Manning threw in his first five years (100). But in his next five, he threw 65. That's progress.

History is filled with quarterbacks who threw too many away. Joe Namath was an interception machine. Brett Favre threw too many. Terry Bradshaw threw too many. George Blanda. John Hadl.

But the game has changed. Quarterbacks can throw the ball out of bounds these days. Defensive backs can't mug receivers as much. Holding has been liberalized.

And the best quarterbacks protect the ball.

After a loss, Winston says the right things. That it can't happen. That he has do better. But is ball protection enough of a priority with him? No, I'm not talking about the plays when his arm is hit, or when it bounces off a receiver's hands, or even when he's making a desperation throw late in a loss.

But there are times Winston simply throw the ball to the wrong guy. It's an invitation to defeat.

Hey, I'd love -- in a year or two -- to write that I was wrong, that Winston was worth salvaging. That one morning, it occurred to him he was throwing his career to the wrong team and that he worked to stop it.

For now, I've seen enough. He needs a turnaround, not another turnover.

So what do the Bucs do? What can they do? Without an experienced alternative, they have to ride it out. They have to hope that, this time, unlike all the other times, the message gets through to Winston.

Otherwise, as bad as it sounds, they have to consider starting over.


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