TAMPA — Happy 25th birthday, Jameis Winston.
Sunday, you're a quarter-century old. But it's hard to know how many quarters are left in your career.
There are six quarterbacks participating in the NFL post-season this year that are age of 25 or under, the most ever. Sadly for Bucs fans, you're not one of them.
That's not to say you're not a better quarterback than the Ravens Lamar Jackson (21), the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes (23), the Texans' Deshaun Watson (23), the Bears Mitchell Trubisky (24), the Rams Jared Goff (24) or the Cowboys Dak Prescott (25).
Well, maybe Mahomes, who could be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player.
It's fair to say they all are having better years, playing on better teams, and quite possibly for better coaches.
This is a team sport, after all.
But your numbers are pretty impressive after four seasons. Let's start with the number 25.
"(Winston) has accomplished more than most of the elite quarterbacks have at his age through that time span (in their careers),'' general manger Jason Licht said. "There's a lot to like about Jameis. Jameis will be here next year.''
Licht is right.
Your 88 touchdown passes are second only to Dan Marino, who had 10 more by the time he was 25. They're more than Peyton Manning (85), Drew Bledsoe (80) or Matthew Stafford (80).
Only Bledsoe had more passing yards (14,642) than you (14,628) at this point in his life.
And since everybody seems to hone in on interceptions? Well, you're in good company there, too.
Your 58 interceptions are tied with Payton Manning and Terry Bradshaw at the same age. They combined for six Super Bowl wins and are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fran Tarkenton (68) and Joe Namath (70) had more by the time they turned 25.
So you like to sling it around. So what?
"I think I made some strides,'' Winston said.
"Again, just like last year, my last few games I took care of the football for the most part and I believe I gave our team a chance to win."
Things really changed when Dirk Koetter became the first coach to bench you for something other than injury or disciplinary reasons. You had never been replaced because someone thought you weren't good enough.
You responded by protecting the football better than at almost any point in your career. In the final five games, you had 11 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, including a Fail Mary. Contrast that with 8 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in your first five games.
You said the benching changed you as a quarterback. Of course, Koetter got fired for it.
Here's the thing about the head coaching vacancy. Is it unattractive because the Bucs already have a general manager and declared a starting quarterback for 2019?
Or, is it more attractive because you are still here?
Former Bucs quarterback Chris Simms, a co-host on NBC's Pro Football Talk, called the Bucs job "sneaky good,'' because Winston and his primary offensive weapons are already in place.
"Some coaches might like it for two reasons. First reason being if Jameis Winston just doesn't work out, you can go, 'Well, I took the job and you guys stuck me with Jameis Winston and he's a mess and blah, blah, blah,'' Simms said. "And it really buys you a free year if you're a head coach, right?
"But the other thing is if you're a head coach and you go down to Tampa and you start to evaluate Tampa, you're going to go, 'Damn, yeah, Jameis Winston does a few dumb things every now and then. But holy crap, does he do a lot of great things.'
"The Buccaneers job is sneaky, very good to me for the fact there is a quarterback with potential," Simms said.
Jameis, what's unknown is whether you are closer to becoming Dan Marino or Josh Freeman. Your career arc is at a crossroads.
Freeman had only 10 fewer touchdown passes than you by the time he was 25. But then you only have five fewer interception (58) than he did.
More damning is the won/loss record. Your 33 losses are second only to Blake Bortles (34) by age 25. Josh Freeman had 32.
Freeman played only five NFL games after he turned 15. He threw his last pass in the NFL when he was 27. His legend burned out long before his birthday candles ever did.
This could be a big year for you. A new head coach, your third with the Bucs. At least a $20.92-million salary.
The task now is not whether you can become the best quarterback at 25 or under, but whether you're on track to becoming the Bucs best quarterback for the future.
Stacking up against 25
On the occasion of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's 25th birthday, here's a statistical sample of NFL quarterbacks' production before they turned 25, and how Winston ranks among them:
1. Drew Bledsoe 59
2. Josh Freeman 56
3. Jameis Winston 54
4. Fran Tarkenton 51
5. Peyton Manning 48
6. Cam Newton 48
7. Blake Bortles 45
8. Matthew Stafford 45
9. Marcus Mariota 42
10. Norm Snead 42
1. Dan Marino 98
2. Jameis Winston 88
3. Peyton Manning 85
4. Drew Bledsoe 80
5. Matthew Stafford 80
6. Josh Freeman 78
7. Fran Tarkenton 77
8. George Ratterman 74
9. Blake Bortles 69
10. Jared Goff 65
1. George Ratterman 79
2. Drew Bledsoe 73
3. Norm Snead 71
4. Joe Namath 70
5. Fran Tarkenton 68
6. Josh Freeman 63
7. Steve Grogan 59
8. Jameis Winston 58
9. Peyton Manning 58
10. Terry Bradshaw 58
1. Drew Bledsoe 2,379
2. Jameis Winston 1,922
3. Josh Freeman 1,873
4. Matthew Stafford 1,863
5. Blake Bortles 1,706
6. Peyton Manning 1,679
7. Cam Newton 1,475
8. Dan Marino 1,427
9. Joe Namath 1,302
10. Marcus Mariota 1,274
1. Drew Bledsoe 14,642
2. Jameis Winston 14,628
3. Josh Freeman 12,963
4. Matthew Stafford 12,807
5. Peyton Manning 12,287
6. Dan Marino 11,431
7. Cam Newton 11,299
8. Blake Bortles 11,241
9. Joe Namath 9,606
10. Jared Goff 9,481
1. Dan Marino 33
2. Drew Bledsoe 32
3. Ben Roethlisberger 29
4. Peyton Manning 26
5. Cam Newton 25
6. Josh Freeman 24
7. Jared Goff 24
8. Bernie Kosar 24
9. David Woodley 24
10. Michael Vick 23
(Jameis Winston ranks 14th with 21 wins)
1. Blake Bortles 34
2. Jameis Winston 33
3. Josh Freeman 32
4. Fran Tarkenton 32
5. Norm Snead 30
6. Matthew Stafford 28
7. Drew Bledsoe 27
8. Tim Couch 26
9. Dan Pastorini 25
10. Randy Johnson, Archie Manning 24
1. Blake Bortles 11
2. Matthew Stafford 10
3. Joe Namath, Geno Smith 8
4. Josh Freeman, Jake Plummer 6
5. Marcus Mariota, Ben Roethlisberger,
Tim Couch, Bob Griese, Brett Favre, Neil Lomax 5
(Drew Bledsoe, Jameis Winston and 10 others with 4)
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud