There’s a lot on the line in 2019. The Buccaneers are in the midst of the second longest playoff drought in the NFL, they’ve been through five coaching staff changes in the last ten years, and their quarterback - drafted number one overall in 2015 - hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.
The time for all of it to change is now, starting with Winston.
Winston hasn’t been bad. He has, however, seemed to disappoint fans who have seen the meteoric rises of other quarterbacks drafted since Winston - like Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz, and Jared Goff. Mahomes was the 2018 NFL MVP while both Wentz and Goff have had their teams in the Super Bowl. Winston, on the other hand, has been as up and down as your favorite roller coaster.
One of the things head coach Bruce Arians has said is that Winston needs to stop trying to be Superman. He puts the success and failure of the team squarely on his shoulders and will do too much when trying to get a win. It’s his “never say die” mentality that has gotten him in some trouble with turnovers and mistakes in critical moments.
Perhaps it’s that Jameis feels pressure to score on every drive when he knows his defense is one of if not the worst in the NFL and any lead they get isn’t safe. Maybe it’s the competitor in him that strives for greatness, even to his own detriment at times. Whatever the case, the new staff is confident in him, and preaching patience.
Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times wrote up some thoughts from new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich who talks about what the staff sees in him and what the Buccaneers have in the former first overall pick;
“We’re not here to fix this kid. The kid can play already. Everybody has a head coach, an offensive coordinator, a quarterback coach, right? You know, granted B.A. is going to bring the best guys around, but we don’t need to fix this kid. This kid is perfectly fine. We can win football games with Jameis as our quarterback. We believe that. I believe that.
We can’t control the narrative around him, the opinion people have of this kid. I know my opinion of this kid is high. He’s still a young quarterback. Nobody plays this game perfect. In this league, you have people like Jameis and then you say, ‘Well, Tom Brady is this or Drew Brees is this.’ They’ve already been through stuff. People forget Drew Brees began in San Diego. We forget all about that. That position, as tough as it is, sometimes it brings unawareness in people’s judgement.”
Winston, entering his fifth year, is still only 25 years old. For comparison, Carson Wentz was drafted the following year and is 26. Jameis entered this league at a much younger age than most. While that doesn’t excuse some of the mental mistakes he’s made on the field, it also lends credence to the fact that he’s still learning and growing within the NFL. He’s also far from the ceiling his talent is capable of reaching.
The Bucs are all in on Winston this year. Bruce Arians is all in on Winston for the long haul. For Winston, it’s time to show that the growth, maturity, and decision making are trending in the right direction - which will lead to wins as well as Winston becoming the first quarterback the Bucs have ever drafted to garner a second contract.