If it weren’t for all those interceptions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fifth-year quarterback Jameis Winston said he believes he’d be the best.
And while it seems obvious that avoiding costly turnovers would increase his stock, it’s also obvious that is a tall order because Winston, whose rookie contract is up, has played five seasons. There’s a long way to go from 30 interceptions and seven pick-sixes in a season.
Winston: ‘I’ma be the best’ without INTs
It’s been up and down for Winston in his five seasons with Tampa Bay. The 25-year-old has thrown 121 touchdowns in that span, but also 88 interceptions — the most in the NFL since 2015, his rookie year after being taken No. 1 in the draft. He has more turnovers (111) than any other player in the league since his rookie year, too. (Philip Rivers is second.) He’s also lost 23 of 50 fumbles.
When asked whether he was worried that his turnovers might keep him from returning next year, Winston said defiantly, "That's the last thing on my mind. I'm focused on how I can get better. Because I know if I eliminate those [turnovers], I'ma be the best. So that's bar none. You better check your sheet. If I eliminate those, I'ma be the best."
Winston said he recognizes what he has to fix, but said, “When you look at my numbers, I’m ballin.’” Except turnovers have been the issue every season. In 2017, he threw a career-low 11 interceptions. But that was coupled with a career-high 15 fumbles. And as Arizona coach Bruce Arians put it bluntly, that won’t get you to the playoffs.
At this point, there should have been some improvement.
Winston’s no good, but also great, 2019
Winston had a Sunday of highs and lows once again to close the 2019 regular season. First, he became only the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, putting him in the same company as Dan Marino, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger are also in that group.
His 5,109 yards were the most of any quarterback this season, and far surpassed his previous career-high of 4,090 set in 2016 (he had 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions that year, both career highs until 2019). His 33 touchdowns are second to Lamar Jackson’s 36.
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2019
Then on the first play of overtime against the Atlanta Falcons, he threw a game-ending pick-six, losing 28-22. The Bucs missed out on finishing at .500 and Winston went into the record books in a less-than-ballin’ way.
It was Winston’s seventh pick-six of the season, making him the first in NFL history to do so. He’s the first player in NFL history with 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season too. His 24 interceptions in home games are also an NFL record, per ESPN.
Arians, Winston differ on INT view
Arians’ postgame media availability made it seem far from guaranteed that the Bucs would bring Winston back for another season. They could franchise tag him to give him one more year, or let him walk.
The coach was clear his quarterback can’t keep giving the ball away and he’ll have to evaluate if the issue is fixable. Then there’s the question of what will be available to the Bucs in free agency and the draft.
But there’s also the glaring difference between how the two saw that pick-six by Atlanta’s Deion Jones. Arians, highly regarded for working with quarterbacks, called it a bad decision because receiver Cameron Brate was covered. Winston believed it to be part of a close game.
"He was open. This is football. This is a game of inches," Winston said. "If the ball don't get tipped, it's a completion. The ball gets tipped — it magically ends up in someone's hands. That's stuff that you can't control."
That right there should be the first part of Arians’ evaluation, and likely will be. There are certain things a quarterback can and should control. That 30 passes would be intercepted due to “some crazy stuff” happening, in Winston’s words, is far from reality.
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