When Jameis Winston was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers you would have been forgiven for thinking that was it. Having just entered the 30/30 club as the inaugural member Winston need to take a moment. Whilst there was clearly talent, and a huge arm, mental issues would not go away. Bruce Arians had done all that he could but Winston could juts not resist a long-shot deep ball.
For those of you new to the NFL, the 30/30 club is for those who throw 30+ touchdowns and 30+ interceptions in the same season. At times Winston could have been accused of being hot-headed. He didn’t always consider the outcome of his actions fully. It was this mental state which was the cause for many of the interceptions thrown. Winston appears to have put this mindset to one side however. The first evidence of this was the decision to sit for a year behind Drew Brees.
Any opportunity that you get to learn from a master you should take it. That said, an former overall Number 1 pick could be excused for having a bit of an ego about their development. Winston appears to have matured though, there was no ego on show whatsoever last year. This decision to follow in Teddy Bridgewater’s footsteps with regards to resuscitating a career may be the most important one he ever makes career-wise.
The Year Out
One thing Drew Brees was known for was how well he protected the ball. It was not unusual for him to go a whole season throwing less than 8-9 picks. A number Jameis Winston could only dream of. Since entering the league Winston has thrown more interceptions than any other Quarterback, 88 to date. Consider that other Quarterbacks have had a whole extra season to beat that number and haven’t, it shows just how much of an issue Winston had.
Sitting behind Drew Brees and being able to learn from him, to soak up his wisdom and his approach to the game has the potential to do wonders for Winston and his career. Imagine he comes out and he is the same big armed guy, throwing 30+ touchdowns every year but with 50-75% less interceptions. That guy could be a perennial Pro-Bowler and even All-Pro in the right circumstances. That has to get Saints fans excited.
Coming in and having competition in Taysom Hill, just to be the backup at first, will also have helped Winston’s maturity. It ‘s a long time since he hasn’t been ‘the guy’. I have high hopes that we’ll see a new Jameis Winston moving forwards. I’ve always liked him and thought the potential was there, now he has to show it.
It is safe to say that the Jameis Winston who we saw Week 1 of the 2021 season looked different. I don’t mean just from a uniform point of view either. There was just something about him. He seemed calm and in control. He was looking for the shorter routes, those with much less risk and a higher chance of completion. Winston didn’t have to throw all that much in the game but already appears to have some favoured targets. Nearly a third went to my guy Adam Trautman! Yes he only passed for 148 yards in the game but who cares, he threw 5 touchdown passes! That kind of efficiency is what coaches dream of.
Yes, the Defence played a fantastic game and this took much of the pressure off Winston. If you are so far ahead so early then you can relax and just do what you do best. It is the best kind of introduction game for a Quarterback looking to show he is the future for the franchise. Winston looked composed, aware and just plain better than he ever did in Tampa. The run game helped him, as it would any Quarterback. But this was his only chance to make a first impression as the Saints starter. Man he did that!
Winston topped of a fantastic performance by unleashing his arm in the middle of the fourth quarter. The 55 yard pass to Deontae Harris was pure Jameis, everything we think of when we imagine him passing the ball. He finished the game with a Quarterback Rating of 130.8. Good first impression well and truly made.
In his first game as a starter, Winston joins an elite club. He is only the fourth Saints QB to throw 5 touchdown passes in a game. He joins Brees, Aaron Brooks and Billy Kilmer there.
There were always going to be questions regarding the successor to Brees and how the Saints would handle it. Would they fall off a cliff? Would they be able to continue to complete in a loaded NFC South? Whilst Winston hasn’t answered all of these questions in the long term sense, the short term looks rosy for Saints fans.
With the Panthers improving and the Bucs, with Brady, looking imperious, Winston has a chance to take the reigns and show that he deserves this job long term. After Sunday’s performance there is no reason not to think Winston has found his home for the next 5-10 years. It will be interesting to watch through the season to see whether he can earn that long term contract he covets from Sean Payton and co.
DISCLAIMER – If he throws 5 interceptions next week ignore that last bit…
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