Our own James Yarcho wrote a great piece earlier this week on why it may be best for the Buccaneers to move on from Jameis Winston. I highly suggest reading it before you read this, but you do you. I won’t be angry with whatever route you decide to take.
James brings up some great points in his piece, but the one point that cannot be questioned by either side is that this is a decision that cannot be understated or overlooked.
So, here I am, bringing balance to our world of pewter and red. *smiley emoji*
As always, there are two sides to any topic when it comes to Winston and his career. There have been so many ups and downs, with none coming as often as this season. Like James says, we pretty much know who he is by now.
But I don’t get why we are in such a rush to dismiss him after just one year under Bruce Arians. Winston has made some major mistakes over the years, but he’s also shown the potential to be great. We’ve seen plenty of quarterbacks go through highs and lows over the course of a long career and they still receive chances to prove their value.
In fact, let’s use Carson Palmer - Winston’s doppleganger these days - and his pre-Arians career as an example of what I’m talking about.
In nine seasons prior to playing with the Arizona Cardinals, Palmer had two seasons with 20 interceptions and averaged a (1.45:1) touchdown-to-interception ratio. His average ANY/A came out to (5.84) while his average DVOA and DYAR were 13th and 11th, respectively. He even had a higher interception rate than Winston (3.26% to 3.05%).
Winston, on the other hand, just encountered the first 20+ interception season of his career and it just so happened to be under Arians. The irony in that statement is that Palmer also threw a career-high 22 interceptions his first year under Arians.
It gets even more ironic when you compare Winston’s pre-Arians production to Palmer’s. We’ve already covered the 20+ interceptions in a season, but what about the rest?
Winston does have a lower TD-to-INT ratio (1.26:1), but his ANY/A was higher than Palmer’s (6.38) and he also wasn’t too far behind in terms of DVOA and DYAR (14th on average in both categories).
Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Palmer all set career-high marks when it came to interceptions in a single season under Arians. Palmer showed signs of turnover-prone play and bad decision-making for the majority of his career before playing under Arians, and things got worse during his first year under BA. He was given time after a bad first year - and even after an injury-shortened second year - and it worked out.
So why should the Bucs be in such a rush to dismiss Winston after just one year? And after his most productive year in the league?
It’s easy to think that the Bucs can cut bait and bring in a veteran or draft a rookie to take over. No one can make as many mistakes as Winston, right? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to this piece at all, you already know that’s partially not true.
The veteran quarterback is an easy route to take because a) it’s a veteran quarterback and people usually feel safe regardless of who it is and b) there are some glamorous names hitting the free agent market this year.
But let’s be honest: the Bucs aren’t getting Drew Brees or Tom Brady. The likely options range from a soon-to-be-cut Andy Dalton, to Philip Rivers, to Teddy Bridgewater, or a wild-card like Dak Prescott or Marcus Mariota.
None of those names carry the same potential as Winston in this offense and it goes even further than that. Dalton is coming off a career-worst year in which he was benched for fourth-round rookie and Rivers had his worst year production-wise in seven seasons and also looked worn down at times.
Mariota seems washed and Prescott is going to want big money if he isn’t franchised by Dallas. Bridgewater is the only one who seems like a decent fit, but you have to wonder how much playing in a system like Sean Payton’s helped him out.
All of these guys have some sort of baggage they’ll bringing to Tampa Bay. All of them have questions. And most importantly, none of them are a guaranteed upgrade.
And don’t forget this is an inherently hard system to learn. Fundamentally, it wouldn’t make much sense to bring in someone who is going to have be taught everything that Winston already knows. Unless it’s Bridgewater or Mariota, one of these veteran quarterbacks won’t be around for the long-term either, so you’ll be right back in this position in a few years. Do you really want to trust a rookie in this situation, as well?
A new signal-caller also won’t take the Bucs to the playoffs because - and I hate to say this - this team is not just a “quarterback away” like most want to believe. We are talking about a team that led the league in penalties, an offensive line that gave up 47 sacks and was 23rd or worst in all run blocking metrics, a team that is still extremely thin at key spots on the depth chart, and while it has a defense that is improving, it still has to prove it can take the next step in 2019.
This team also needs the big play like Cartman needs Cheesy Poofs. It doesn’t have the roster - nor the infrastructure system-wise - to sustain the long, grind-it-out drives it would have to endure with a more game-manager-type quarterback. There were too many mistakes, too many penalties, too many coaching errors in 2019 to make you think otherwise right now.
Those are just a few issues to name, and whether you like it or not, all of those issues can turn 2020 into another losing season if they aren’t corrected. It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback. Don’t forget the multiple miscommunications that we saw between Winston and his receivers last year, either. Regardless of who was at fault, what do you think the odds are of those happening again with a brand new quarterback?
It’s not just about Winston and his lack of ball security. Sure, he’s definitely played a part in the last five years, but the team - the franchise - has also played a part in the rollercoaster ride, as well. And they’re still feeling the effects to this day.
Of course, money is the driving force behind all of this, but in actuality, Winston and his agents wanting $30+ million should not be much of a surprise. We are talking about one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league that has been very productive despite the turnovers. Yes, the “check my sheet” line probably wasn’t the best thing to say at the time, but there’s truth behind it.
A $27 million, one-year tryout would be worth it in order to find out if he is indeed the guy for the long-term. That’s because if Winston does work out, then the Bucs should be able to round out into a formidable team under this staff in the next couple years as long as they have a good quarterback that can fit the offense. That’s worth the roll of the dice.
With $91 million in cap room, the Bucs have the money to make this work. They can bring back Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Winston, and others. You don’t have to rob Peter in order to pay Paul in this instance.
There’s no clear choice, here. For every step you take forward in evaluating Winston, you take a step back. The one thing that is certain, however, is that Tampa Bay cannot afford to screw this up.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason.