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Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Believe it or not, there *is* a middle ground in the Jameis Winston debate

It’s just not a popular “side” to take because you can’t really scream about it on Twitter.

I don’t care what the Buccaneers do with Jameis Winston.

OK, maybe that’s not entirely true, but what I should say is this: I don’t have an opinion on what they should do with him. I’m not leaning one way or the other. I just don’t know.

If they bring him back on a transition or franchise tag, I’ll understand why. If he comes back on a longer-term deal, I’ll understand why. And if the team moves on, I’ll understand why.

A middle ground. Crazy, right? It shouldn’t be. But if Twitter is any indication, Jameis Winston is too polarizing for there to be a middle ground. BRING HIM BACK or LET HIM WALK. It’s one or the other. There’s no in between.

Well, actually... There is. There has to be. Because that’s where I am, and I’d wager that I’m not alone. I haven’t always been neutral on Winston. Quite the opposite, really.

I’ve been in Winston’s corner since his days at Florida State. I was enthralled by him from his debut at Pitt in 2013 until the very end of his career with the Seminoles, by which time I was firmly of the belief that he was easily a better choice for the Buccaneers with the No. 1 pick in the draft than Marcus Mariota. I even took a No. 5 Florida State jersey to the draft party that year.

Then, for the first four and a half years of his Tampa Bay career, I was still a Winston guy. It got to the point where I had friends and family picking at me about him just because they knew it would get a reaction out of me. And they continued to do so deep into the 2019 season, but suddenly, I wasn’t reacting anymore. I had been burnt out by constantly defending this guy who just could not stop turning the ball over. I had no defenses left. He was costing the team games by making mistakes that rookies make. By the time he threw that season-ending pick six in overtime of the team’s Week 17 loss, I was done. I wanted the Bucs to move on.

From there, it didn’t take long for me to come back to the other side. I started feeling that despite the turnover issue, Winston was still the best option for this team — at least for 2020. Days passed and I flipped again. The next week, I flipped again. I felt like a high school recruit that was flipping commitments between the same two schools every other day. Finally, I realized that my stance was smack dab in the middle of it all.

Jameis Winston has plenty of redeeming qualities as a quarterback. He can make throws that other guys can’t make. He has a knack for escaping defenders and making jaw-dropping plays. But he also makes decisions that he just can’t afford to make. He frequently puts his team in bad situations and has to dig out of holes that he dug himself. He has great moments that make you really believe in him as a franchise quarterback, but he also has moments that make you wonder how he’s been a starting quarterback in the NFL for five years.

As far as 2019 is concerned, you can look at Winston’s 5,000-plus yards and 33 touchdowns and smile, but you can also look at his 30 interceptions and NFL-record seven pick-sixes and cry. It might’ve been the weirdest season of any quarterback in league history, which doesn’t necessarily help the decision that Tampa Bay’s front office has to make.

Many pro-Winston folks want to point to what Carson Palmer did in his first year under Bruce Arians and talk about the jump he made in year two. They talk about Winston doing the same like it’s a sure thing. But it’s not. No one knows if Winston will follow Palmer’s trend. He could come back and do worse in 2020 with the same interception rate and a lower touchdown total.

Then, there’s the anti-Winston crowd that wants to point to Winston’s career record and his 30 interceptions in 2019. For starters, “quarterback wins” isn’t a valid statistic. It’s silly. And then there’s the fact that even with those 30 picks, the Bucs won seven games and could’ve legitimately won three or four more with a few successful kicks and competent officiating (Hi, Tennessee!).

I could sit here and argue both sides all day. The point is, it’s not as cut-and-dried— in either direction—as people want to make it out to be. There’s so much that goes into it on both sides. How anyone can dig their heels in and have such a strong stance in either direction baffles me.

Look, I know when it comes to hot debate topics on Twitter, going full Switzerland isn’t the attractive choice because it doesn’t allow you to log on, present your opinion as fact and argue until you’re blue in the face. But it’s important to consider both viewpoints with a level head. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and it’s landed me on the fence about the whole thing. If Jameis Winston is back in Tampa Bay for 2020, I’ll be fine with it. If he’s gone, I’ll be fine with it. It’s not a bad place to be, honestly.

If nothing else, please try to have some respectful discourse about this situation. If Bucs Twitter can’t do that, it’s going to be a LONG couple of months.


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