Two months ago all signs pointed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers preparing to move on from quarterback Jameis Winston. The Bucs made Winston the first overall pick of the 2015 National Football League Draft as he had all of the physical skills that are necessary to succeed at the position which includes having a big arm. But aside from making questionable decisions on the field which includes him throwing 58 interceptions in parts of four seasons with Tampa, Winston’s off-the-field decision making has really hampered his growth.
Winston had several off-the-field incidents during his time in college at Florida State which was unfortunately highlighted by sexual assault allegations against him. And now that Winston is in the National Football League, he has failed to grow mentally as he was once again at the center of controversy following an incident in 2016 where he allegedly groped a female Uber driver.
This incident would lead to the National Football League suspending Winston for the first three games of this past season along with Buccaneers refusing to give him a contract extension last off-season. And when backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick began this past season by throwing for at least 400 yards in the three games that Winston missed, it appeared that Tampa Bay was prepping to show the former number one overall pick the door.
But then Fitzparick would revert to being his usual self which opened the door for Winston to regain his spot as the Buccaneers starting quarterback. Winston would start the final five games for Tampa Bay this past season and even though that the team would only post a 1-4 mark in those contests, he had done enough to impress Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht to continue employing him.
Licht would take it a step further as after firing head coach Dirk Koetter as the end of the season, he let it be known publicly that whomever would be the next head coach of the Bucs would have to retain Winston as the Bucs starting quarterback.
Licht would find his man to lead the Buccaneers as the franchise would last week hire Bruce Arians to be their head coach. In five years as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Arians posted a record of 49-30-1 which included leading the franchise to only its second appearance in the NFC Championship Game, while he only had one losing season there. Arians has built a reputation the National Football League of being a “player’s coach”, and somebody that guys are willing to run through a wall for. But it is Arians’ ability to work with the most important position on the football field that continues to make him a wanted man.
Early in the career of quarterback Peyton Manning, Arians was his position coach with the Indianapolis Colts, while he would then go on to win a Super Bowl Title with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 which included helping the maturation process of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Arians was then hired to be the offensive coordinator of the Colts in 2012 to help rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, but as the result of head coach Chuck Pagano being diagnosed with leukemia, it was Arians who stepped in to lead the team. And under Arians, the Colts would finish that season with a record of 11-5 after going 2-14 in the previous campaign.
With the Cardinals, Arians would resurrect the career of Carson Palmer which was highlighted by him being selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015. And once you factor in Arians’ ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks, while also being a motivator of men, if Winston cannot succeed under him, then there won’t be too many more opportunities for him in the National Football League.
By default the quarterback is supposed to be the leader of your team, but Winston has clearly shown that he cannot do that as of yet. Winston has become a YouTube sensation for his pregame speeches, but actions speak louder than words. Aside from challenging Winston to become a better quarterback, Arians is going to challenge him to become a better man. In Tampa Bay the expectations have been low and there is a losing culture within the organization as they’ve failed to make the playoffs since 2007 which is the second longest current postseason drought in the National Football League. And that losing culture along with a lack of accountability has not forced Winston to grow as a player or as an individual.
So the next several months are going to be the most important time for Winston’s career as aside from being able to keep himself out of trouble during the off-season, Arians is going to make him work in a fashion that he’s been unaccustomed to during his tenure in the National Football League. Under Arians, Winston is going to have to become more of a student of the game as he looks to improve his career completion percentage of 61.6%, while also improving his decision making as he threw 14 interceptions this past season in only 11 games. Arians was forced to retain Winston, but that does not mean that the quarterback won’t have to prove himself to his new head coach. Arians is going to do everything possible to make Winston a leader of men. But if Winston is not up for the challenge, there shouldn’t be any finger pointing on his part as nobody will take his word for it due to his new head coach’s track record. And if Winston cannot find a way to succeed under Arians, not only will his time in Tampa be done, but you would also have to question if he would ever be able to get it done in the NFL.