It’s easy for people to hold a grudge nowadays. In the world that we live in, and I’m watching and anger is accepted as a form of healing. If one was ever done wrong or had someone to blame, that would be a reason to justify your actions against that individual. Football is just a microcosm of how we feel, and what we think in our everyday lives in regards to society. Once a cheater, always a cheater right? The Lions will forever be the Detroit Lions. It’s almost as if a zebra or tiger can’t change their stripes… Or can they?
During week one of this excellent 2021 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints had the decision to either play in Dallas or in Florida. Sean Payton decided to play in Florida to give his team an advantage. Dealing with the devastation of hurricane Ida, football was probably the last stand on a lot of people’s minds. But Sean Payton is different from your typical everyday coach; he molds and maintains players into superstars. Don’t take my word for it, look at his resume. Drew Brees, after dealing with a shoulder injury and being denied by Miami, landed in New Orleans and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Michael Thomas is a 100 million receiver, and currently holds the record for the most receptions in a season. Alvin Kamara, a third-round product out of Tennessee, is a top-five running back, and one of only five running backs to have 2,500+ yards since 2018 and 30 touchdowns. The list goes on and on, and then there’s Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston is no stranger to Florida. He was successful at Florida State, although some controversy did happen while he was young. He was drafted number one to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There was never any consistency when James was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yet he would be blamed regardless if it was his fault or not. A lot of issues with the fan base in regards to respect, trust, and allowing a player to develop. Jameis didn’t have the best offensive line. Jameis didn’t have the best defense. And without a doubt, Jameis had to deal with his issues of vision, due to the fact that he was continuing to squint like he did while he was in college. There are a lot of determining factors that were against Jamies Winston whenever he was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. However, one can’t tell the fan base how to feel, how to think, or worst of all to be patient. The past is difficult to bring up because it severs any kind of togetherness from a fan standpoint. There is no such thing as being on the same page in regards to the assessment of the 5 years that Jameis Winston spent in Tampa Bay. Or the lack of loyalty that Tampa showed him whenever it was time for a brand new contract. Similar to an old toy that has outlived its usefulness, Tampa, behind closed doors, signed a Hall of Famer to run their offense, and in essence through Jameis Winston and his 5-year body of work away. Some would say that that’s the exact same offense that James Winston had whenever he was here. That would be wrong. Rob Gronkowski is a veteran tight end who has put in the work and has a resume that is better than Travis Kelce’s. Antonio Brown, as a number 3 option, would have been vital to Jameis Winston and would have lowered his turnover ratio; with or without vision problems. Tristan Wirfs is a top-five tackle in the game and only his second year. Stability at the tackle position is detrimental to a quarterback’s success. Mr. Winston definitely could have used his talents. Antoine Winfield Jr., at the safety spot, just might have turned a couple of tides in highly contested games. But this is neither here nor there because Winston was kicked out before all of these changes occurred.
Unemployed, unhappy, and unsatisfied with the way that he was treated, Winston continued to bet on himself and accepted a $1 million contract to be a backup behind Drew Brees. It’s shameful to say that the fans of Tampa Bay laughed at their former leader for accepting this offer. It would be honest to say, that the Tampa Bay faithful were happy at his misery. Tampa Bay has an issue in regards to letting quarterbacks go, to where they can prosper and be successful in other locations. Doug Williams comes to mind, so does Steve Young. But those who do not remember history, are doomed to repeat it. Before his disrespectful dismissal from the Bay, Winston’s statistics were on a similar trajectory of Peyton Manning and his first-year struggles; but some players get more benefits than others.
Fast forward to the present, inside TIAA Bank in Jacksonville. The Green Bay Packers face the New Orleans Saints and a kickoff weekend in which Green Bay is usually successful. But this wasn’t your usual suspect, is a Sean Payton molded Jameis Winston. Jameis was efficient; completing 14 of his 20 passes for 148 yards. Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns on the day, with his last one being a 55-yard deep strike to Deonte Harris. 70% completion percentage, no turnovers. Not easy to do. But he’s a Saint; nothing ever comes easy. Although one will get the credit, the shadows who don’t will still need to be recognized. The front four of the New Orleans Saints wreaked havoc on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay running game. After speaking to Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones post-game, they both admitted that a lack of running game was the reason why the offense was stagnant and ineffective. Aaron Jones said himself that the New Orleans Saints front four were unique and very good. The Packers obtained less than 45 (43 exactly) yards rushing. Time of possession was also a key tool in the New Orleans Saints victory. In the first half, the New Orleans Saints had ball control of possession 22 minutes to 8 minutes for Green Bay. This led to a tired and frustrated defense in the second half.
The old Jameis Winston would have taken shots and double coverage and chances that he didn’t need to take. The new Jameis Winston led a New Orleans Saints offense that gained only 100 yards more than the Green Bay Packers. That’s quite similar but very different. 229 yards, versus 322 yards. Both teams had nine drives. Peyton Manning, Jameis Winston. Similar, yet different. This isn’t an overreaction. Also, take into account the 171 rushing yards, that demoralized a Green Bay Packers defense and secondary. This is not your Drew Brees type of Saints. This is not the Jameis Winston that was stuck in the hellhole known as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is the Jameis Winston that could have been if molded and properly protected.
To those who may feel that this is a little bit early, or that this was just a fluke on the schedule, decision-making goes a long way. The old Jameis Winston would have thrown into triple coverage or took chances. Three of his incompletions were throwaways-nothing was there and he made the proper decision. His next opponent will be an NFC South rival in the Carolina Panthers. Considering how shaky the Tampa Bay defense showed themselves to be on Thursday night to open the season, their former quarterback may have found a new home base to enact on his revenge tour. This is still a battle between Tampa and New Orleans for anything that matters in the South. Sooner or later, Tampa is going to have to open their eyes and realize and accept what they have lost. This is not the same Jameis Winston you once knew.