Jameis Winston has an interception problem. That’s not surprising: he’s had that his entire career starting in college, and it’s partly a result of his risky playing style—the same playing style that results in a lot of highs, too.
So far, the risks have been somewhat manageable: 15 and 18 interceptions in his first two years are on the high side, but nowhere near disastrous. His interception percentage has been more worrying given the relatively low volume of passes, but it’s nothing that would stop him from being a successful quarterback.
Part of that has just been luck, though. As a rookie, his adjusted interception percentage (which takes into account game situations, drops and tipped passes) was ranked third in the NFL at 4.2%, as calculated by Football Outsiders. Last year it improved to 3.3% despite a rise in total interceptions, but that still ranked him a disappointing eighth.
Even more disturbing is the data analyst Cian Fahey charted for his 2017 quarterback catalogue: he had Winston down for a whopping 32 interceptable passes, which at 5.64% of his throws ranked him third, as relayed by Peter King of The MMQB.
On the one hand, this is pretty worrying. You can’t be a highly successful NFL quarterback while constantly turning over the ball. On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton show up high on the same lists and they seem to be doing mostly fine.
More significantly, it seems like Jameis Winston’s interception problem is actually getting better. He had more interceptions in 2016 than he did in 2015, but that mostly seems to be down to luck, if we can believe Football Outsiders’ numbers—and I generally trust them.
It’s important for Winston to keep improving, but he’ll likely never be a low-interception quarterback. That’s fine: Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning threw a relatively high number of interceptions throughout their careers, too—I’d rather have a few too many interceptions than a quarterback who cripples his offense by refusing to take risks.
With added receiving talent and the natural progression we can expect of any young quarterback, Winston should be much better this year. Hopefully that’ll lead to fewer interceptions—or at least fewer interceptable passes—while not harming Winston’s ability to push the offense down the field.