Jameis Winston had been having a rough day in London Town, but the game against Carolina wasn’t yet completely out of reach. It was midway through the third, Panthers up 20-7, when Winston dropped back to pass. A touchdown there and the Bucs would be back in it. Winston scanned the field, spotted a wide-open man, and drilled the ball straight to his sternum. The receiver seemed stunned to have such an easy catch.
With good reason. The pass catcher was Luke Kuechly, who — as you may have heard — plays for the opposing Panthers. There was no Bucs receiver within 5 yards in any direction of Kuechly, and yet here he was, getting a little pitch-and-catch toss from Winston.
It was Winston’s worst moment in a game full of them, a 37-26 loss, and it’s yet another reason why Tampa Bay faces such a nightmare choice in about three months. Winston has transcendent skills, but his execution is often that of someone holding the controller upside down while playing “Madden.”
We advise those with small children to get them out of the room before reading this stat: Winston threw a career-high five interceptions and lost one of his two fumbles. He had just one touchdown, completing barely half his 54 attempts, and ended the day with a horrific quarterback rating of 46.8.
Winston’s trash-fire game—hey, sorry, England—marked a decisive end to what had been a decent little run for him: 10 touchdowns against two interceptions over the last four games. It was further demonstration of the eternal enigma that is Winston: do you commit to the guy long-term knowing full well that he’ll serve up one of these bus-station-toilet-quality games four or five times a year?
First-year Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians has a rep as a quarterback whisperer, but so far consistency has eluded Winston. The Bucs now sit at 2-4, well off the NFC South lead and down a loss to both the Saints and Panthers.
Bruce Arians on what he said to Jameis Winston after second straight fumble, just before half: "Throw the damn ball away. You avoided one. You might have avoided two. You ain't thrown it anywhere. … Throw it away. He has a habit of trying to be Superman."— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 13, 2019
Here’s a stat that confirms the essential madness of Winston’s play: this was the fourth 400-yard, five-interception game in NFL history, the first in 23 years. The others with this ignominious feat? David Woodley, Mark Brunell and … Dan Marino.
That last name is exactly why the Bucs don’t kick Winston to the curb with a FREE QB sign taped to his helmet. He’s got the ability to orchestrate some dominant football—check out his performance throwing three TDs to Mike Evans he had against the Giants earlier this season—but he’s also got the ability to throw his team right out of a game.
Tampa Bay has 10 games left to decide whether to re-sign Winston, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year after playing out the five years of his rookie deal. The ceiling for Winston remains high, but the floor, it’s clear, is subterranean. Will the Bucs put up with the latter in hope of reaching the former? Four years and six games into the Jameis Winston Experience, we still don’t know.
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