Ever since the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians to be their head coach back in January, there has been a lot of talk about what he can do for quarterback Jameis Winston.
Having worked closely with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer, Arians has been known as the “quarterback whisperer.” So, with his arrival in Tampa Bay, the hope is that he can take the 25-year-old Winston to another level in 2019.
Nate Burleson, an 11-year NFL veteran and current analyst on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” said he sees this relationship between Arians and Winston working out well for the Bucs, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007.
“You know, this is a perfect fit for Jameis Winston. I say all the time that the most important relationship on a football team is the one between the quarterback and the head coach. And for all of the quarterbacks that Bruce Arians has worked with, I mean, QB coach for Peyton Manning like you mentioned, Ben Roethlisberger[‘s] offensive coordinator, he was the interim head coach for Andrew Luck. The one head coach situation that he was in that reminds me a lot of this is when he coached Carson Palmer. Because the previous two seasons, you guys remember after Carson Palmer left the Bengals, where did he go? Oakland. And he had two, like, very average years. 8-16 in two years, right? Struggles were there. Even so much so, even Carson Palmer was considering retiring. People around the league were saying ‘you know what, he had a good run as a Bengal. He might as well shut it down.’ And then he goes and he finds Bruce Arians, Bruce Arians finds him, he’s an Arizona Cardinal. And then that relationship started to build and blossom. And you remember he had that season: 35 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, NFC Championship Game. The Arizona Cardinals were real. They were ballin’. 13-3. So, if you can go from Oakland Raider Carson Palmer where you’re struggling — and it could be for a lot of reasons — to find yourself kind of reemerging as a quarterback and then helping this organization find themselves in the Arizona Cardinals, and make them relevant again... Bruce Arians has that on his resume. So, he can lock the door, sit in the quarterback room, look at Jameis and say ‘Jameis, if you’re focused on the field, you’re focused in the classroom, I can take your game to another level.’ And that’s why I think this relationship will work. Because Bruce Arians, as soon as he got the job, he didn’t waver. He wasn’t like [new Cardinals head coach] Kliff Kingsbury with [Josh] Rosen. He wasn’t like ‘oh, this is a business, you never know.’ He said ‘no, Jameis is my quarterback and we’re moving forward with Winston.’ And that right there says a lot.”
Arians has been on the job for five months now. As far as anyone can tell, it seems like it’s been so far, so good with the head coach-quarterback dynamic. The two have previous history, and it’s long been known that Arians is fan of Winston’s. And vice-versa. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise for this to work out for the Bucs.
The parallel between Arians’ situation with Palmer/Arizona and his current one with Winston/Tampa Bay works pretty well. The overall point is that Palmer, while talented and pretty successful in the past, saw his best years come under Arians’ watch. The Bucs are hopeful that the same goes for Winston, who has plenty of talent but hasn’t been consistent enough to reach that next level. If Arians works his magic with Winston the way he did with Palmer, the wins should follow. They sure did in Arizona.
Where the parallel doesn’t work as well is in two areas. For one, Palmer was near the end of his career by the time he worked with Arians. Winston is still very much in the beginning of his career. Despite 2019 being his fifth season in the league, he’s still only 25. So, this deviation from the parallel works in Tampa Bay’s favor. The Cardinals weren’t able to sustain that success, due in part to Palmer’s age catching up with him. If the Arians-Winston team works out as expected, the Bucs could see sustained success for the first time in over a decade.
The second way the Bucs’ situation differs doesn’t necessarily work out in their favor. Palmer and Winston were similar before Arians in some ways, but the former was more proven than the latter currently is. Palmer had played seven pretty solid seasons with Cincinnati before the two-year struggle in Oakland. Winston is four years into his career, and so far, he has been somewhat of a mixed bag. He has shown flashes of greatness, but he doesn’t have it all together quite yet.
Nonetheless, there’s big-time potential for this relationship between Bruce Arians and Jameis Winston.