This offseason has been one of the best in recent memory for the New Orleans Saints. Including moves like signing WR Emmanuel Sanders and S Malcolm Jenkins, drafting C Cesar Ruiz and LB Zack Baun, as well as many other moves during these few months. One move, however, has been criminally overlooked by both fans of the Saints as well as NFL fans in general…Jameis Winston.
Jameis Winston has been solely regarded for his interceptions, and very rarely anything else, as he brought little to no success in Tampa Bay. Something many, many people have continually pushed is the narrative that he “Doesn’t have the mentality of an NFL QB” and that his college years were all that he had. This is, without a doubt, one of the most incorrect statements made in years.
In this article, I will be going over several aspects of Jameis Winston’s life, including:
- College career & success
- His years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Surgery/eye issues
- His future, with both the Saints and NFL
Jameis Winston had one of the most successful college careers and only was in college for 2 years. He played both of his years at Florida State and lost only 1 game out of every game he played. He led the Seminoles to the ACC Championship in 2013 (freshman year), where they beat Duke 45-7, completing an undefeated year. Then in 2014, he won every game again (missing only one game due to suspension), and the team was selected to play in the Rose Bowl. They ended up losing to Oregon, 59-20, which was his only loss in his college career.
After the 2014 season, he decided to forego the 2015 season, and enter the draft that year. In his college years, he went 562/851 passing, throwing for 7,964 yards, 65 touchdowns, and 28 interceptions.
Winston would be drafted Round 1 Pick 1 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft, as they needed a reliable and highly talented Quarterback. In a relatively weak QB draft class, Winston was the best one available, even by today’s measures.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Career
Tampa Bay would be where Winston would start a slight decline over the years. In his first year with the Buccaneers, he would make the pro-bowl and lead the team to a 6-10 record (their best record since 2012 at that point). Over the span of 2015-2018, Winston would be a consistent quarterback, but never was the extremely potent weapon Tampa had envisioned. His interceptions and decision making were always his biggest issue, but comparatively, to 2019, they were nothing.
Fast forward to 2019, his arguably best and worst season all at once. The first thing to look at here was the new Buccaneers coach, Bruce Arians. Over the years, Arians has developed a strong reputation for being a “Risk it for the biscuit” type coach. This tends to lead to quarterbacks in his system having rough first years, including names like Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning. These two quarterbacks both struggled heavily in their first years with Arians, Manning even threw more interceptions in his combined first 4 seasons than Winston has. In no way is Arian’s system bad or wrong, it is just very heavily reliant on high octane offense with deep passes that are overall risky.
Quarterbacks in the Bruce Arians system usually take 2-3 years to develop into a mold that is consistent and high-level performing. However, the Buccaneers only gave Jameis 1 year with Arians before letting him walk to bring in Tom Brady. This explains a portion of Jameis’ inflated interception total, as he was already interception prone anyways, so this system made that even worse to start.
Jameis in 2019 completed 380 of his 626 pass attempts, throwing for 5,109 yards (most yards by NFL QB last year) 33 touchdowns (2nd most by NFL QB last year) and of course his notorious 30 interceptions (most by NFL QB last year.). Another statistic to note is his offensive line allowed him to be sacked 47 times (2nd to the league-high of 48).
After his 2019 season with the Buccaneers, Jameis came out on the record and said he had a minor sight issue. The LASIK eye surgery was to correct nearsightedness, which is a major issue for someone who was airing the ball out 35+ yards on a common occasion. Jameis in an interview said, “I can read license plates, I can read street signs” and that the surgery gave him more precision in his vision.
Could this have been Jameis’ issue all along? Maybe. No one is quite sure yet of how much difference this will make in his throwing. However, if his vision is as good as he says it is compared to before, this could be a major turning point in his career.
Future with the Saints and NFL
Jameis has more to prove in 2020 than he has at any other point in his career. On April 28th, 2020, the New Orleans Saints brought in the struggling QB on a 1 year 1.1 million dollar deal. This deal essentially ends up with the following context: if he proves himself to be a solid player in the preseason and his limited playing time in the regular season, he will be more of a commodity in the 2021 offseason. If he doesn’t change his ways and still is heavily turnover prone, the contract won’t affect the Saints in the long term.
After Teddy Bridgewater’s resurgence in 2019 with the Saints, he was signed to the Carolina Panthers for 3 years and 63 million dollars. This could easily be the case for Jameis, provided he proves himself. At the end of the day, New Orleans is going to be in the market for a starting QB after the 2020-2021 season. Drew Brees was considering retirement this offseason before signing his 2-year extension, but he will likely close out his career after one more season. If Jameis ends up being to the liking of Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, he could be looking at his next starting role in New Orleans.
Jameis has never had the opportunity to truly “learn” under any quarterbacks in his career. The only other person he has really been around is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan was more competing for his role rather than teaching Jameis. Learning from one of, if not, the best statistical QB in NFL history, will likely shape Jameis into the mold the Saints want. The best part for Jameis is that he will be learning from one of the most accurate passers ever, which has been Winston’s struggle.
Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland said it best. He made a comment after the signing, saying, “And then you throw in Pete Carmichael, Joe Lombardi and Sean Payton on the offensive side of the ball and those creative minds, Jameis Winston will learn more football in a year than he has in his lifetime.” This is an extremely bold, but likely accurate statement on this signing. He will be in a spot where he is learning from some amazing offensive mindset based coaches and players.
If Jameis can make the most of this situation, he could find himself being “the guy” again with his former division rival New Orleans Saints.
How do you feel about the chances that Jameis Winston becomes the future of the New Orleans Saints? Leave a comment below.
Make IroniqMedia your future home for all of your NFL coverage here.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @ClutchWDN.