Winston has a strong arm that he can use to “make all the throws,” as it is said in NFL scouting parlance. There is no corner of the field that he cannot reach. The problem is that Winston too often identifies the wrong throw to make, identifies the correct throw but does so too late, or else identifies the correct throw on time and on schedule, but makes said throw inaccurately.
This is who we had in college and it is who he has been in the NFL. After 62 professional games, 2,142 passes and 68 interceptions (and 42 fumbles), we should not expect it to change anytime soon — if ever.
And yet, after Winston’s latest disaster (five interceptions and two fumbles against the Panthers in London), Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians says he is not considering sending Winston to the bench, nor did he consider doing so during the game.
“No. I look at the reasons why. What happened?” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “If it happens again, yeah, it’ll concern the hell out of me.”
What’s strange about that particular comment is that Sunday’s turnover-fest was already the second such meltdown Winston has had this year. Winston was intercepted three times and fumbled twice during the Bucs’ season-opening loss to the 49ers. And it’s not as if these games are outside the norm.
Winston has thrown multiple interceptions in 17 of his 60 career starts, as well as one of his two career appearances off the bench. That’s nearly as many multi-interception games as zero-interception games, of which he has only 25. If you add fumbles to interceptions, Winston has had multiple giveaway-worthy plays in 28 of 62 career appearances.
That’s nearly half the time he’s taken the field! It’s inexcusable. And it’s not getting better. And yet, Arians continues to think otherwise.
“I think just him playing better, the guys around him playing better, coaching better — the whole thing,” Arians said. “I think as we continue to grow together, I think it will get better and these games will be one in a million and not one every five.”
It’s not as though Winston has lacked for help during his career. Mike Evans has been his teammate from the very beginning. Chris Godwin has been there for the past three years. O.J. Howard has been there for the past two. He still has tight Cameron Brate and he used to have slot man Adam Humphries and deep threat DeSean Jackson. He has had plenty of talent around him, and he has been this guy anyway.
With just 10 games left in the fifth-year option season of Winston’s rookie deal, it should be clear to the Bucs that he is not their long-term answer. He does not do the things required of an NFL quarterback at a high enough level to justify investment, and it’s not like he leads the team to wins in spite of that fact: his career record is just 23-37. And that’s just based on his play on the field — there are plenty of off-field reasons why committing long-term, guaranteed money to Winston is a poor idea. If this is not clear to the organization, then there are deeper problems here.
It’s also unlikely that Winston’s backup, Ryan Griffin, is the long-term answer. He’s a soon-to-be 30-year old career backup who has been in the league since 2013 but has somehow never thrown a pass in a regular season game.
But that’s actually a pretty good reason they should make a switch from Winston to Griffin! They know Winston is not the answer. Griffin almost surely isn’t, either; but we don’t know that for sure. Stranger things have happened than a career backup suddenly becoming a starter. And it’s not as though Winston could be said to give the team a significantly better chance to win. He’s bad at winning.
And if they lose with Griffin, who cares? They were probably going to lose anyway, but they’ll have gotten a 10-game look at another quarterback on their way to a higher draft pick. That seems like a better use of these last 10 games than having Winston give the ball away too often to make a playoff run, but show just enough flashes that it might convince the team to invest in him when they obviously should not.