Jameis Winston: From The Red Zone To The Edge Of Greatness7 min read
There is no man on the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster that divides the fan base quicker than starting quarterback Jameis Winston. For some reason, there are people who call themselves a Buccaneers fan, but hate Winston so much, that they hope he fails simply so they can watch him start for another team. There are various reasons they give, from his personal past to his interceptions and turnovers to his touchdown ratio.
They have called for Winston to be replaced with new Buccaneers signee Vincent Testaverde even though Testaverde spent two years on the practice squad at the University of Miami, sat an entire year out playing no football, and then finished his collegiate career at the University of Albany, where he threw for only 1700 yards the entire season and had multiple games where failed to even break 200 yards passing. They don’t want Testaverde to take over the team because he’s proven to have the talent necessary, nor the maturity necessary, and it’s not even because they think he’s ready to just jump in and take over an entire franchise because none of those have proven to be true… it’s simply because he’s not Winston, or carries the same last name as a former Buccaneer, his father, Vinny Testaverde .. who by the way, never saw a winning QB record in any of his six seasons as quarterback of the Buccaneers.
There are indeed some valid reasons to call out and criticize the on-field performance of Winston, from his inconsistency to his turnovers to his decision making, but none of them are solely responsible for the dismal record of the Buccaneers under his leadership, and none of those issues account for other shortcomings of the team such as poor coaching, a meager running game, a defense that resembles Swiss cheese, or a kicking game which was so bad that a made extra point was cause for celebration.
The owners along with General Manager Jason Licht finally decided that enough was enough, and they brought in legendary Head Coach Bruce Arians. They knew that if anyone could fix the issues that had been plaguing Winston, it would be Arians. The same man that helped shape the careers of Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck, and the same man that revived the career of Carson Palmer who had been sent out to Arizona in hopes he’d fade away into the surrounding desert. Arians wasted no time in bringing in various forms of help in his quest to reload the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He sought out both Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich, along with a coaching and training staff that brought a plethora of both success and knowledge. He brought in experts in the field of sports-science that could break down every statistical category and physical attribute and use the latest technology to explain to Arians how to tweak the environment or player in an effort to put the players in the best possible condition and situation come game day.
Through all of the hirings and firings, the signings and releases, the tweaks and the changes, the one thing that has remained constant, is Arians’ commitment to Jameis Winston being the starting quarterback. Arians has not wavered from this, has not shown the slightest bit of uncertainty, and loves not only the work that Winston puts in but the changes that he’s seen in the meeting rooms along with the improvements he’s seen from Winston on the practice field. Arians have publicly stated that Winston has shown improvement every day since he took over as head coach and that he’s shown growth each day. As recently as this past Friday, Arians was singing the praises of Winston and his performance.
(On if Friday was Jameis Winston’s best camp practice yet)
“I would say [so] just because the red zone was just lights-out. Seven-on-seven was lights-out. I thought the team period was lights-out. The two-minute, he overcame some things [and] got us down there with a chance to throw it in. So, yeah, I would say yes.”
(On if Winston needs to start stringing good practices together)
“Oh, yeah. He’s got good growth every day. We’re talking, we’re learning, situations, this play versus that coverage, here’s the best [play.] That’s all it is. He works really, really hard, studies good. He’ll be fine.”
Lights-out, when you hear a coach like Bruce Arians refer to your play as a lights-out performance, you know you’re performing at the highest level one can expect you to be playing at. He didn’t refer to his play as good, or getting there, or even improving, but his red-zone performance was lights-out, his seven-on-seven was lights out, has said there’s no reason Winston can’t be really really successful, has said that Jameis can win it all with the Buccaneers, has praised his consistency during training camp, and is thrilled with what he’s seen day in and day out from Winston.
Arians isn’t the only one that’s been singing the praises of Jameis Winston though, and one doesn’t have to look far to see how those who truly know him and his ability really think about him and his abilities.
I feel like Jameis [Winston] is on the edge of being great, and he’s also getting better every day. (Bruce Arians) B.A.’s offense is not easy to learn. Some of the passes he’s making and the confidence he’s gaining – it’s getting pretty scary. Don’t be surprised if No. 3 is really putting up some numbers this year at the start of the season. You’ve got to watch out for No. 3. He’s learning a new offense, and B.A. and Tom Moore have been around a lot of quarterbacks, and if anyone is going to teach him it’s going to be them.
He’s the best leader I think I’ve ever been around — in anything.
Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden –
Not many people do what Jameis Winston did: first year as a starter winning a national championship, only one loss in his two years as a starter. He’s got great charisma. He’s polarizing for some people, but he’s a rare talent.
Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich –
I’m excited to work with him, I believe in this kid. This kid can really play. I think there’s things that we all have got to get better at as each individual player but, man, I’m really excited to work with him and really excited to put him in positions so he can be successful, just like everyone else. He’s a play-maker. He’s [been] a playmaker from the second he got in this league. This kid’s played four years and he’s only 25 or something like that? It’s amazing, the situations that he’s already been in and experience he’s gained being in this league, so I’m excited about that.
Hall of Fame Head Coach Tony Dungy –
He’s very comparable to Peyton Manning when I got to the Colts, it took Peyton a little while to get there, but Jameis absolutely can get there. He’s a talented guy, and that’s what Coach Arians will teach him and preach to him. You can still be explosive and get all the big plays we want to get and we can still have all the big plays that we want to get and we can still take care of the football and protect it and be a low turnover team.
Jameis is set to become the all-time leader in passing yards for the Buccaneers in week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. He already holds the team record for most passing touchdowns and completions, should move into the top 20 in rushing yards for all Buccaneers including Dunn and Alstott, and isn’t even top 5 in interceptions. The only accomplishment that has eluded him as the quarterback of the Buccaneers is the Lombardi, and that’s something that he hopes to add to his resume before his career in the NFL comes to an end.
With people like Bruce Arians, Jon Gruden, and Tony Dungy constantly praising Jameis and reaffirming their certainty that he can get the job done along with the ability that Jameis has shown on the field ( just some of his accomplishments include most passing touchdowns in a single game and in a half by a rookie quarterback, the youngest player to pass for both 3,000 and 4,000 yards, the 2nd youngest player to pass for more than 10,000 yards, and most passing touchdowns in Buccaneers history) perhaps just maybe, it’s time to stop wishing for the leader of the team to fail and start hoping that he can put it all together on a consistent basis in order to return the Buccaneers to a place they haven’t been in more than a decade, the playoffs.
Maybe for some, seeing Jameis fail means more than watching the Buccaneers win, but I can’t understand that type of mentality. I certainly have no doubt that Jameis can be the leader we need him to be, and I will always pull for our quarterback to put together the best performance possible no matter who they are.
At the end of the day, I’m a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and I bleed Pewter and Red….with maybe a trace of Creamsicle Orange.