Winston suffers turnover outburst once again

by Gary Shelton on September 20, 2016 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jameis Winston has to protect the ball better./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Jameis Winston has to protect the ball better./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

Back in the day, former Bucs' quarterback Brad Johnson had the friendliest little description of an interception.

“Flukes,” he called them.

It didn't matter if the ball was tipped four times, or if he hit the free safety between the numbers. Johnson, competitive cuss that he was, would not give in. He would not give the opponent credit for a good play. He would not take the blame for a bad one.

Flukes. He might as well have called them gremlins.  Or termites. They just showed up, as if on their own, and created malice.

One day, after a game against Atlanta when he threw four

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Koetter hopes to cut down on the turnovers./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Koetter hopes to cut down on the turnovers./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

interceptions, he kept talking about his interceptions as flukes. I finally looked at him and said.

“Brad, you threw four of them.”

“Four flukes,” he said.

Well, there goes Jameis Winston. Fluking up again.

It was alarming to see Winston throw four interceptions (plus a fumble) in the Bucs loss to Arizona. Frankly, it was one of the areas in which we expected Winston to have a better year in this, his second season, than he did in his rookie year. We expected him to hit hummingbirds in the eye.

One interception? Heck, every quarterback throws one.

Two interceptions? That's a bad day with a slippery ball.

Three? That's the kind of day that a quarterback doesn't get over.

But four? Four is just shy of throwing one for the thumb. Four will get you beat.

Think about it. Drew Brees has played in 220 NFL games. He's had four picks all of there times. Winston now has played in 18 games. He's done it twice.

I know, I know. The Bucs didn't have anything else working for them Sunday. Doug Martin was hurt, and you could measure Charles Sims' runs with a ruler. Not a particularly long ruler. Vincent Jackson looked old. Mike Evans was wearing Patrick Peterson like a blanket.

And Winston threw four. Yeah, one was a deep pass in the end zone that Peterson took away from Evans. Once was deflected twice. One was on an end-of-the game heave. Still, four is a bunch.

Here's the question: Does another quartet of interceptions rattle your faith in Winston? Or does it help you identify the Bucs as not having enough weapons around him?

Oh, coach Dirk Koetter defended his troops on Monday. Then again, what is he going to do in the middle of September? Call in reinforcements? Draft again? Call the Jamaican track team and see if anyone has ever worn pads?

“You just can’t turn it over five times and be minus five in the turnover (ratio),” Koetter said. “I think there’s something like three games in the history in the NFL where teams lost a turnover margin that bad and been able to win. [You’re] not giving yourself a chance when you turn it over like that.”

Oh, Winston isn't about to be pulled. Heck, he wasn't even pulled for his own protection when the Cardinals were pounding on him in the closing minutes.

But does a day like this make you re-evaluate how far Winston has come so fast? That would be fair. Winston prospered last year when he started taking better care of the ball. It's time he did that again. An interception is a mortal sin. Got it?

Look at Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. He's played in 128 NFL games. He's never had a four-interception day. Ben Roethlisberger has played in 173 games. He's had one. Cam Newton has played in 80 games. He's had one.

Got it?

Hey, it happens. Peyton Manning had six days with at least four interceptions. Tom Brady has had six. But both of those guys had enough moments to make you think, yeah, it was a fluke. And both of them played at least 225 games. (Manning had 266.)

So was this just good defense. Or was Winston off?

“It was both, it was a combination of both,” Koetter said. “What we did not do a good job of is making them pay with our throws down the field. We had some that Jameis was high on, we had a couple that Jameis missed on, we had a couple where the routes weren’t what they needed to be and you just can’t do that. When they’re pressuring you, you’ve got to make them pay and we didn’t do that.”

In Tampa Bay, we know all about interceptions. We've seen quarterbacks throw afternoons away too many times.

Steve DeBerg, back in 1986, threw seven interceptions in a game against the 49ers. Vinny Testaverde threw six against the Vikings in 1988, five against the Eagles in 1988, five against the Packers in 1989 and five against the Bears in 1990. Josh Freeman threw five in a game. Doug Williams threw five in a game.

In all, more than 200 quarterbacks have a five-interception day or worse. So Winston isn't in terrible company.

But he's got to keep these cluster-days at a minimum if the Bucs are going to have any chance to be decent.

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