It’s been an interesting career so far for Jameis Winston. There’s no denying the man has a cannon for an arm but a cannon that could use a little more accuracy at times. A little more maturity at others. More seasoning. Has Winston had the chance to mature, become more seasoned, and be more accurate when dropping balls downfield? This writer thinks so and thinks that this is the year that Jameis Winston vindicates himself after a meteoric rise and harsh fall from grace.
The Rise & Fall of Jameis Winston
Winston won the Heisman and a National title as a freshman with Florida State and then was the Number 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft after just two years in college. He would go to the Pro Bowl and win Rookie of the Year in 2015. After this wave of success, the good times started slowing down and the road became a little rockier.
His 2016, 2017, and 2018 seasons would not bring Jameis Winston the same levels of success that he saw in college or his rookie year in the NFL. Sure, he broke 1,439 franchise records with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but he didn’t win either. He had off-the-field troubles, just like he did in college. Stealing soda from Burger King and standing on top of a table screaming sexually vulgar things at a woman in college, plus the crab legs incident would turn into allegations of groping an Uber driver while in the NFL. The young star with a boatload of talent and early success wasn’t turning out to be the franchise QB you hope for when you draft someone first overall.
The 2019 season saw Jameis Winston fight for his job, leading the NFL in passing yards but he did so at the high cost of leading the NFL in interceptions as well. He even managed to set an NFL record with consecutive games where he passed for over 400 yards, including a tour de force performance in Week 15 against the Lions, where he passed for 458 yards and 4 TDs. It wasn’t enough though. Enough was enough and Tampa Bay was ready for a change. Winston was out and no team wanted to offer him a starting job after 5 years of highs and lows in Tampa Bay.
Many insiders and analysts, myself included, hoped that sitting behind Drew Brees for a year would provide Winston with some much-needed mentorship and seasoning. That losing his job would force him to mature into the NFL QB he’s always had the physical talent to be. After 2 years in college and 5 in the NFL, riding the bench for his sixth season had to be a humbling experience for Jameis Winston, especially with his former team winning the Super Bowl without him.
With the retirement of Drew Brees, Winston got the nod to start in Year 7 of his career for the New Orleans Saints, a year that saw Winston get hurt in Week 8. It’s hard to judge his 2021 performance in a lot of ways. COVID ran wild on the Saints in Week 2, after a dominant Week 1 performance. He wasn’t playing bad football by any means but to truly assess whether that year under Brees helped Winston or not, we needed to see more of him. This brings us to…
This is the Year
Winston signed a 2-year extension in March of this year. The Saints are obviously impressed enough to keep him around. But whether that’s to make him a fill in while they prepare for the future or if they are auditioning to keep him around for more years than just this contract depends on this year.
Jameis Winston has more weapons than he’s ever had before. Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave bring a much-needed boost to this offense. Alvin Kamara will be back and so will Michael Thomas but both are on the downside of their careers. This is the year to win, the year to capitalize on all of this offensive talent before it’s gone. If Winston fails to deliver on the promise that he brought to the NFL when he was drafted back in 2015, he will be cementing his future as a journeyman, a QB you bring in to be the stopgap while your guy of the future has time to develop. It’s not a bad way to make a living but for someone with Jameis Winston’s talent and previous success, he has to be playing for more.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It’s anyone’s guess. Winston hasn’t shaken off his immature, interception-riddled past yet. But he has shown that he still has a cannon. He has weapons but they’re a question mark too. What will Michael Thomas be like after a few injury-plagued years? Is Kamara in legal trouble? Can Landry still go and how long will it take Olave to be NFL-ready?
Those question marks aside, Winston can’t ask for a better opportunity. He’s playing in a division that can be won, with teammates who (hopefully) can go. He’s on a “prove it” contract and he’s still young enough to do just that. What happens from here remains to be seen but for Jameis Winston, this is the year to make something happen and get back to the promise he once showed.