But even if Tampa Bay wins out and finishes 9-7, playoffs are still a longshot. The final month of this season is more about evaluation, especially when it comes to quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Bucs have long known that they would eventually have to make a decision on the future of the fifth-year quarterback, whose rookie deal is up at the end of this season. With the offseason nearing, that decision is getting closer and closer. But if you were expecting anyone — especially head coach Bruce Arians — to say anything on Winston’s future ahead of time, you’re out of luck.
When asked on Wednesday about the future of the soon-to-be 26-year-old, Arians had this to say:
“I’m gonna pass on that one. I’m gonna wait until the end of December.”
Those two sentences seem to have the Buccaneer fan base in a frenzy. Folks are jumping to conclusions about how the Bucs view Winston and have gone as far as taking a noncommittal answer as a damning sign for his future.
What Arians said could be telling. Or, it could mean nothing. Like with plenty of conversations surrounding Winston, it just depends on how you want to look at it.
Arians, who spent just one year (2018) in retirement before returning to the league, has admitted that getting to coach Winston was one of the things that attracted him to Tampa Bay. So, for the veteran coach to be noncommittal when asked about his young quarterback, that could be seen as a concern.
But here’s the thing. It had already been previously reported, notably by ESPN’s Jenna Laine, that the Bucs are undecided on Winston at this point in the season. So, why would Arians’ deferral of a question have any deeper meaning? Arians’ “answer” gave us the same insight that we would’ve had if the question wasn’t even asked.
Plus, it’s not like Arians came out and said anything definitive about the future. He simply passed on the question and gave a political answer about waiting until he’s done evaluating. You could make an argument about what he implied, but that’s dangerous territory to get into. Over-analyzing what he “meant” is pointless because, after all, only Bruce Arians knows what Bruce Arians meant. And he could’ve simply meant exactly what he said. That he’ll wait to comment on the future... in the future.
What does Arians have to gain by “committing” right now anyway? Wouldn’t Arians want Winston to feel some of that pressure of still needing to prove himself the rest of the way? Why would he say “we’re committing to him” before he has to? It’s not like he (or the Bucs) were going to announce a contract extension or even a franchise tag in the first week of December.
Personally, I just don’t think there’s any deeper meaning about what Arians said. He has four more games to evaluate what he has in No. 3. He wasn’t going to prematurely cut the evaluation short. If Winston is sharp over the final four games, I expect Arians to give him a vote of confidence after the season. If he comes out and plays disastrous football the rest of the way, I’d think the Bucs would move on.
The situation hasn’t changed. Winston has four more games to make his case for a new contract. We’ll see where things go come January and beyond. But let’s stop taking Arians’ non-answer as an admission of doubt in his quarterback, shall we?