Sunday, January 17, 2021

Should The Buccs Move on From Jameis Winston?

Now that the Dolphins have moved Ryan Tannehill on to Tennesse, and the Jaguars have moved on to Nick Foles, Jameis Winston is officially the most divisive quarterback in Florida. So should the Buccs move on from Winston?

Draft Day Hype

Drafted with the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft Jameis Winston was divisive from the outset as the analytics crowd didn’t rate him that highly. In fact, not only did Football Outsiders rate him worse than Marcus Mariota, they gave him a 61.3% chance of being a bust.

Jameis Winston led Florida State to the National Championship as a freshman © USA Today
Jameis Winston led Florida State to the National Championship as a freshman © USA Today

Now analytics don’t tell us the whole story of course and are best used with context, watching film, and studying the players’ off-field behaviour, both in and outside the football program.

Winston came in with some baggage, most notably a bizarre story about him shoplifting crab legs from a Publix. While definitely an odd story, it was mostly put down to immaturity. An accusation of sexual assault against a female student further added to Winston’s issues.

Immaturity in a quarterback is rarely a good thing, and in a player you’re taking with the number 1 overall pick it’s surely much worse. Couple that with the sexual assault allegation, although charges were never brought, and alarm bells should be ringing.

On the field, Winston was a two-year starter and led Florida State to the National Championship in 2013 and won the Heisman Trophy. He put up nearly 8,000 yards and 65 touchdowns. However, his 28 interceptions were a major reason his analytics rating was so low.

Jameis Winston

In The NFL

In his first year, Winston put up decent numbers going 6-10 with 4042 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. While his completion percentage was below 60% and his interception rate a little on the high side, it was a promising start.

In the spring of 2016, Winston was accused of another sexual assault, this time on an Uber driver in Arizona. It was an incident that would drag on and eventually lead to a 3-game suspension in the 2018 season.

The 2016 season was a marginal improvement with small increases in accuracy, yards and touchdown percentage. Unfortunately, his fumbles and interceptions went up as well. With a 9-7 record, the Buccs missed out on the playoffs in a tie-breaker with the Lions. However, the future looked bright for Winston and the Buccs.

The Wheels Come Off

Things Got Much Harder for Winston in 2017 and 2018 © The Ringer
Things Got Much Harder for Winston in 2017 and 2018 © The Ringer

The 2017 season, however, was a disaster. Winning just two of the first eight games, Winston would miss the next three games with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. He had been struggling with the issue for a few weeks, but the rest didn’t seem to help as he would win just once more in five starts to end the season 3-10.

While the record was horrendous, Winston posted a career high in completion percentage, a full 5 points higher than his rookie season, and his interception rate dropped to 2.5%. While not stellar his turnover rate was a career best.

Buccs fans went into the offseason hoping that the only reason Winston didn’t completely break out was that AC sprain and things would look better next season. Then came news of that 3-game suspension for sexual assault on the Uber driver.

Ryan Fitzpatrick opened the season as the Buccs starter, but Winston took over as soon as he was eligible. However, once again things didn’t go well for the Buccs as Winston won just 1 of his first 4 starts and was benched in favour of Fitzpatrick.

As he does, Fitzpatrick flew high for a very short time, and then burned up, and Jamies was back as the starter for week 11. He would win his first two starts back, before losing four on the spin to end the season 3-8.

So Should The Buccs Move on From Winston?

With the fifth pick in this years draft, there may not be a better time to consider taking a quarterback. Winston has now had 4 mediocre years as the Buccs starter and is due a salary of $20.9m this year, the final year of his rookie contract.

Based on his production, he’ll likely be looking for in the region $23m per year over three or four years in his next contract. While he is a serviceable starter who can make all the throws, the lack of consistency, and the inability to carry the team makes this a tough contract to justify.

At the same time, prospective quarterbacks aren’t abundant this year. Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins is the likely candidate with the number five pick, and while his 527 DYAR from Football Outsiders is better than Winston’s he is far from a guaranteed winner.

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