Comparing Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota used to be the hot thing to do, but for some reason I haven’t seen that many direct comparisons the past year. Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report thought it was a good idea to frame his analysis that way, pitting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback against the Tennessee Titans’ signal caller.
The final conclusion is that Mariota is likely to do better this year, with less production than Jameis Winston overall. But Tanier refuses to make any statements on who is actually the better quarterback, focusing almost entirely on their support. So I’m just gonna focus on the bits about the BUcs.
Of course, Tanier doesn’t like the Bucs’ running backs, nor their offensive line. The offensive line hate never stops—I get being skeptical, but it’s getting a little ridiculous that folks entirely discount the possibility that, y’know, young players get better.
Winston now has one of the most exciting, multidimensional receiving corps in the NFL, a backfield full of injuries and questions and an offensive line that's mediocre at best. He plays in a division full of great quarterbacks and opponents that always seem one year away from building outstanding defenses.
Well when you phrase it like that, it doesn’t sound all that hot. But when you realize that the rest of division is also filled with holes, that the Bucs faced a very touch schedule and did pretty well last year, and that they had some issues getting an offense going without a running game but that it certainly wasn’t an insurmountable problem, things might start to look a little differently.
Tanier also has a specific prediction for Winston this season, which sounds possible if a bit on the negative side.
Winston appears poised for a long season of running for his life and throwing deep: 4,500 yards and 30-plus touchdowns, perhaps, but with 20 interceptions and 40-plus sacks.
That’s basically what Andrew Luck did in his first year—with fewer sacks, mostly because Luck is a bit better at throwing balls away to avoid a sack. But Luck threw 40 touchdowns, for 4,761 yards, 16 interceptions and 27 sacks. And Luck’s first two year are pretty similar to Winston’s, too.
Luck, of course, had issues with his offensive line that year (as in every year) and had to bail out his team a bunch of times with late-minute comebacks. That performance resulted in an 11-5 record and a conference championship appearance. Which seems like a good goal for the Bucs, and realistic if a few things go their way—mostly on defense.
So hey, if Winston really does struggle in the exact way Tanier describes, that may not even be a problem. And it might turn out really well, too—because good quarterback play can compensate for a few too many turnovers and sacks.