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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite Sunday win Jameis Winston still needs to go

Jason Cole

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jameis Winston sloppiness has never gone away.

In Spring 2015, former NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who is now running personnel for the Oakland Raiders, was discussing the pros and cons of Winston as the top two picks in the draft. Like many NFL scouts, Mayock liked Winston’s pure throwing talent, saying it was suited for the NFL. Mayock also thought Winston’s size, accuracy and confidence all projected to that of a young Ben Roethlisberger, a prototype pocket passer.

There was just one problem. The sloppiness of how Winston handled his life and how it was creeping into his play on the field. The multiple incidents at Florida State, including a rape allegation, made Mayock and others wonder aloud. It wasn’t a question of guilt because that was difficult to sort through.

The question was more philosophical: If Winston was willing to be so cavalier and borderline criminal in the way that he handled life at the college level, what was he going to become when he got to the pros? In fact, Winston was often just as sloppy on the field at Florida State as he was away from it. His touchdown-to-interception ratio went from 40-to-10 as a freshman to 25-18 as a sophomore.

That’s when Mayock came to a damning conclusion about Winston’s future as a pro.

“If he’s going to handle his life that way now, he’s going to let you down later,” Mayock said. “If he’s going to be sloppy in life, he’s going to be sloppy with the ball and with the team.”

Five years later, that’s still the case and the game Sunday against Arizona was further proof. While Winston led a game-winning drive in the 30-27 victory, his heroics were partly a creation of his own mistakes. Specifically, two interceptions that simply make you wonder what Winston is doing?

On both a deep out to the wide side of the field on the third play of the game and on a throw over the middle in the second half, Winston made two terrible stare downs on his receivers that led to picks on Tampa Bay’s side of the field. These plays were so obvious that the defensive backs on the plays basically got to the ball faster than the receivers.

If Winston were a rookie or second-year player, these would be excusable. If he made one of these plays every now and then, that would be human. Instead, this is his fifth season and he made two in one game, part of a string of four games in which he has thrown nine picks.

The bottom line is that Winston is sloppy. It’s the case more than ever. While Winston has, for the most part, cleaned up his life off the field, there are still moments on the field that are confounding. Moments that should be disappearing, not showing themselves on a regular basis.

And yes, folks in Tampa should be celebrating today after an exciting victory over Arizona on Sunday. But that spasm of joy can’t ignore an overwhelming reality: Winston is still the same player he has always been, a combination of tantalizing talent and insufferable mistakes. At a time when Buccaneers management needs to decide what it wants to do with Winston long-term, he continues to make mistakes.

That means, barring some make-good, incentive-laden contract, it’s time for the Bucs to move on.
While Winston is not completely to blame for the team’s 3-6 record – the Bucs have allowed 27 points or more in eight of nine games – he is also not solving the problems. That’s both his and the team’s problems.

He leads the league in turnovers this season with 18 and leads the league in giveaways over the past five years. He has 14 interceptions and four lost fumbles (among 10 fumbles total) through nine games. He has the highest interception percentage of his career at 3.9. He’s on pace to break his career-high of 18 interceptions in 2016 and possibly, his career-high for fumbles of 15 in 2017.

Parse that however you want. There is no positive spin.

Yes, Winston is playing for his third head coach in Bruce Arians. But Arians is the guy who came to Tampa with the “quarterback whisperer” reputation. The thing is that it should go without saying – be it a whisper or a scream – turnovers are bad. This is not advanced football theory.

So when Winston lobs an out pass to the far side of the field without even looking off the receiver or driving through the ball with his legs, you just have to shake your head. When, later in the game, he stares down a receiver and throws into double coverage when one of the two defenders is the uber-talented Budda Baker, that’s not an enlightened play.

Budda. Enlightened. See what I did there.

Yeah, the play on words is obvious. Just as it’s obvious Winston isn’t improving.

Sure, he’s trying. The pained look on Winston’s face every time he throws a pick and then looks at the pictures of the play shows his earnest desire to get better.

The point is that desire doesn’t mean anything anymore. You can try all you like. At this point, it’s about results. And the results are still the same.

Jason Cole is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector who has covered the NFL since 1992. He has worked for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, Yahoo Sports! and Bleacher Report. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Giant with Plaxico Burress and Heart for the Game with Simon Keith.

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    Richard Dickson

    November 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Part of the reason the defense is giving up so many points is that Winston keeps turning the ball over and giving the opposing offense a short field. Not that he’s to blame for the woeful state of the secondary, but I’d feel better having our defense have to defend 60 or 70 yards rather than 30 or 40.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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