Jameis Winston has played through a shoulder injury for four weeks, and was having the best season of his career prior to that: he was more accurate, faster and better in his decision-making, and more productive than in any season before.
And yet, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell named Winston as the league’s most disappointing player so far. That’ll be news to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have a justifiably unshaken faith in their quarterback.
Winston's lack of development as a third-year starter has been far more troubling. This was supposed to be a breakout season for the Bucs after Tampa signed DeSean Jackson before using a first-round pick on O.J. Howard. Instead, while Winston's raw numbers are at or slightly above their averages from a year ago, his overall performance has slipped significantly. Winston has generated only a 39.4 QBR, down more than 20 points from his 59.5 mark from a year ago. He has missed open receivers on a weekly basis. While Winston's shoulder knocked him out of Sunday's loss to the Saints, he was struggling before spraining his shoulder earlier this season. In what is quickly becoming a lost season for the 2-6 Buccaneers, Winston seems as far removed from Tampa's 2016 campaign as anyone else on the roster.
This, to me, is a bunch of nonsense. Jameis Winston was playing like a top ten quarterback until all of two weeks ago. It wasn’t close, either: he was clearly having a breakout season, and ranked in the top ten in basically every relevant statistic.
Since then, Winston has put up two terrible performances. Probably in part because that shoulder injury got worse in every game, in part because the Bucs couldn’t run the ball worth anything, and in part because he was simply playing poorly, too. But those last two games don’t take away what he achieved the rest of the season.
Granted, Jameis Winston needs to get better at the deep ball. It’s baffling that he’s still so bad at connecting with wide open receivers down the field. But other than that, he had a terrific season until two weeks ago. Calling this the most disappointing season is, well, a failure to take context into account.
For Winston’s second season to be so disappointing, you’d have to believe that his performance in the last two games was at least consistent with if not representative for his play this season. But there’s no reason to believe that, nor to think that those two games are more indicative of Winston’s future than the previous six.