Can Sean Payton get Jameis Winston to play within his physical abilities?

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From his “eat a W” pregame speech to his unconventional workouts to his 30-interception performance in 2019, Jameis Winston has become a punching bag for many NFL fans and media — a Michael Scott-type of figure who thinks he’s in on a joke that he’s actually the butt of.

The reality is that Winston has a high degree of football skill. He wasn’t a reach as the first overall pick in 2015. He was the consensus top choice, to the point that the Buccaneers definitely tanked in the last game of the 2014 season (coincidentally against the Saints) to get him.

And he had his moments. In 2016, Winston emerged as an MVP candidate, leading a five-game winning streak that resulted in the Bucs being flexed into primetime for a showdown against the Cowboys, who finished the year as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Dallas popped the Tampa Bay bubble with a 26-20 win.

Then came 2019, when Winston threw his 30th interception in overtime of the last game of the year. He also became only the eighth player in league history to throw for 5,000 or more yards, joining Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, and Dan Marino. Indeed, only four men have ever thrown for more than Winston’s 5,109 yards, his first and only one with Bruce Arians and his “no risk-it, no biscuit” offense.

Not surprisingly, Winston risked it. He got plenty of biscuits. If he had thrown a biscuit or two less to the other team, he possibly wouldn’t be viewed the way he currently is.

One of Winston’s biggest problems over the years comes from his decision to periodically try to do more than he’s physically capable of doing. We’ve seen those moments from time to time, starting with the Rose Bowl pratfall against Oregon. It’s a common dynamic for athletes; some don’t understand that their body can’t do the thing their mind wants to do, and it all goes sideways.

If Saints coach Sean Payton can get Winston to stay within the bounds of his considerable physical skills (especially when it comes to making throws that maybe he can’t make), it will work. Payton surely believes he can pull it off, or Winston wouldn’t have won the starting job. As Buccaneers fans laugh (perhaps nervously) at the prospect of facing Winston twice (and maybe a third time) in 2021, they need to remember that Winston has never had the benefit of a coach like Sean Payton.

This could work very well for Winston. If he stays within the boundaries of his abilities, it could work better than it ever has for him.

Can Sean Payton get Jameis Winston to play within his physical abilities? originally appeared on Pro Football Talk