By Andy Villamarzo
Hernando Sun sports reporter
TAMPA- It’s a debate that has been ongoing since the day Jameis Winston was drafted back in April of 2015 among Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fans all over social media and football chat rooms. The time is now for making a crucial decision on whether Tampa Bay retains their No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. Should Tampa Bay retain quarterback Jameis Winston?
The argument can always slide both ways like Winston’s inconsistencies to play well throughout the measure of a regular season. Whether you want to look at Winston’s 4-touchdown days against the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams And Detroit Lions or ponder how he could throw five picks versus the Carolina Panthers and four against both the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. Nonetheless, Winston has yet to produce the kind of consistency that fans and even his own coaches would like to see on a game to game basis. There’s a lot to intake here when diagnosing the career of Winston to this point.
Whether it’s been Winston under the guidance of Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter and now Bruce Arians, all have or are well regarded amongst those in NFL coaching circles. To be fair with the former, Smith, the now Illinois Illini head coach only got two seasons in Tampa Bay, in which he improved the Buccaneers from 2-14 to 6-10. A couple weeks after the season, however, saw the Glazers’ family dismiss Smith after just two seasons which could be tied to his desire to add more coaches to his staff, a demand met for Arians (largest staff in the NFL).
Enter Koetter, who was Smith’s offensive coordinator and had previous coordinating experience in Atlanta and Jacksonville. Albeit it was Koetter’s first head coaching gig in the NFL, the 2016 season was a hit. Despite Winston throwing 18 interceptions, Tampa Bay’s defense ranked in the top 15 en route to a 9-7 campaign. The success of 2016 brought upon major expectations for 2017, including the signing of wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Those expectations weren’t met, as Tampa Bay floundered to a 5-11 record behind significant issues on the defensive side of the ball. The same issues parlayed into the 2018 campaign and a 3-game suspension of Winston after an embarrassing Uber incident in the off-season led to a surprisingly good start behind journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a 2-2 record, Winston was reINSERT IGNOREed as the incumbent starter, but was benched after an awful showing versus the Cincinnati Bengals (four interceptions). The 2018 season ended with Winston getting another shot under Koetter and after a brief resurgence, Tampa Bay sputtered to another 5-11 record and the firing of Koetter.
Enter Arians, the self-proclaimed ‘quarterback whisperer,’ who stated prior to the 2019 season that Tampa Bay already had a quarterback it could win with. After a 5,000-yard, 33-touchdown, 30-interception season, Arians sounded conflicted in comments after the season about Winston. The former Arizona Cardinals head coach mentioned things like ‘we will not beat ourselves next year’ and ‘we can win with this quarterback, we can definitely win with another one’ weren’t exactly badges of honor when it came to giving Winston any praise.