Jameis Winston has long been a hot debate topic in the Tampa Bay area, but more recently, he has become a popular topic around the country. Throwing for 5,000-plus yards and 33 touchdowns while also tossing 30 interceptions can have that effect.
As a result, it seems like a new opinion about Winston comes out every single day. Whether it’s from some NFL analyst, a radio personality, a former general manager or a former player, there are plenty of beliefs and thoughts out there regarding Winston’s future with the Buccaneers. A lot of it is just noise, quite frankly, and should simply be taken at face value.
But one guy whose words about this subject carry a little more weight is former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer. Of course, Palmer played in Bruce Arians’ system from 2013 until he retired after the 2017 season. So, he knows the complexity of Arians’ offense and has gone through exactly what Winston went through in 2019. He threw a career-high 22 interceptions in his first year with the “quarterback whisperer” before going on to have significant success with him after that. He knows a thing or two about this situation.
Back in early January, Palmer made an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show and was asked about Winston’s future. He had plenty of interesting things to say about the learning curve and said he expects the 2015 No. 1 overall pick to have a “massive year” if he gets a second season with Arians.
One vote of confidence from Palmer was interesting enough, but he went and made things even more interesting last week by doubling down on those expectations, should Winston still be a Buccaneer in 2020. In an interview with Pat McAfee, Palmer had this to say about the potential of growth for the 26-year-old heading into a second year in Arians’ vertical offense:
“Just the experience of being in that system and having an offseason to go back and watch himself play 16 times and learn from his mistakes... I mean, there was a lot of yards. I think he led the league in yards. He had  touchdown passes, but he threw 30 picks. I don’t know how many picks I threw in my first year, but it was a bunch in [Arians’] system. Because there is no easy throws in that system. There is no three-step game. Everything is long, deep, play-action, five-step, seven-step drops, posts, digs, deep down-the-field, long-developing plays. It’s a really, really difficult offense to come into in year one and just light the league on fire. If Jameis is back, I expect those picks to be cut in half and he’ll throw for 5,000 yards again easy in that system.
Those are hefty expectations. Cutting the interceptions in half would leave Winston with (checks math) 15 interceptions. Think about that for a minute. A 5,000-yard, 30-touchdown season with 15 picks? That’s a dream scenario, isn’t it?
While it seems far-fetched, it’s interesting to hear Palmer talk about it with such confidence. After all, he’s been through the process. He went from 4,274 yards, 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 2013 to 1,626 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in six games the next year. In his next full season (2015), he threw for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If the Bucs stick with their guy and get that kind of improvement, they’re playoff-bound.
Palmer went on to say he loves the weapons that the Bucs have—mentioning Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Ronald Jones II—and the style of play that Arians is known for. McAfee followed up by asking about the potential of Philip Rivers ending up in Tampa Bay, which elicited yet another interesting response from Palmer:
“I’m a huge Philip Rivers fan. I think he’s one of the more underrated quarterbacks of my generation. He’s not the prototypical Bruce Arians strong-armed, long-ball, lot-of-touch [quarterback]. Philip is phenomenal—he doesn’t have the arm that you would want to build that system around, but he is so good at playing Philip Rivers’ game. He knows he can’t chuck it 65 yards on a consistent basis. He can’t do that, but Philip in that system, combining him with those receivers and just his knowledge, his experience and his expertise at playing this position, I think he could go there and have a lot of success.
Compare the two quotes and infer which guy Palmer likes better for the Bucs in 2020. He has good things to say about both guys, but it’s clear which one he sees as the better fit. And again, with his experience as a Bruce Arians quarterback, it’s hard to argue with his assessment of the situation. We’ll see if the Tampa Bay front office agrees with him in due time.
If you’re interested in listening to Palmer talk Winston and the Bucs, the conversation starts around the 37:27 mark in the Feb. 7 episode of The Pat McAfee Show 2.0.