In 54 career starts, Jameis Winston is 21-33.
That’s a record similar to Blake Bortles’ and Eli Manning’s. Not good company. This offseason, the Jaguars cut Bortles, and the Giants drafted Manning’s replacement.
Think the Buccaneers should be moving on, too?
Before you nod, know this: Wins are a terrible way to judge a quarterback. Sure, he plays the most important position, but there are 21 other paid professional athletes on the field at the same time.
There are better measures. One of them is adjusted net yards per pass attempt, or ANY/A. It’s similar to yards per pass attempt, except that it rewards quarterbacks for touchdown passes and penalizes them for interceptions and sacks. It’s not only easier to calculate than passer rating but also more predictive and more strongly correlated to wins.
Here’s the formula: (passing yards + 20*(touchdown passes) - 45*(interceptions) - sack yards) / (pass attempts + sacks).
We’ve heard the excuses for Winston’s record — he lacks a dependable offensive line, he lacks a complementary run game, he lacks competent coaching and on and on. To determine the validity of those claims, I calculated the ANY/A for each of Winston’s 54 career starts as well as the ANY/A for each quarterback start in the NFL since 2015, the year the Bucs drafted Winston. That’s a sample of more than 2,000 games.
As it turns out, Winston’s defenders are right: He has been unlucky. Very unlucky.
What does that mean in terms of wins and losses? The expected win percentage for a quarterback with Winston’s ANY/A averages is slightly better than .500. In other words, if Winston had played the past four seasons in an average situation, he would have won 28 games and lost 26. That’s a seven-win difference.
I’ll spare you the math, but here’s how I got Winston’s expected win percentage: I took the 2,000 quarterback starts since 2015 and sorted them into nine groups based on ANY/A. From there, I was able to determine how often a team won when its quarterback played well, poorly or just okay. For example, teams whose quarterbacks averaged between 6 and 6.9 ANY/A — the most common range — won about half the time.
Usually, the better the quarterback played, the more often his team won. That wasn’t the case for Winston. When Winston played poorly, the Bucs rarely won, as you would expect. But when he played well, they still lost.
Of the 10 games in which he averaged between 6 and 6.9 ANY/A, the Bucs lost seven. Among the losses: the 37-32 loss to the Rams in 2016, the 30-24 overtime loss to the Raiders in 2016 and the 26-20 overtime loss to the Packers in 2017. Compare how the Bucs performed in games in which Winston played decently with how the Packers performed in games in which Aaron Rodgers played decently: Green Bay won nine of those 14 games.
Random? Perhaps. But it’s harder to explain the Bucs losing in three of Winston’s four best games (games in which he averaged more than 10 ANY/A) — the 31-30 loss to Washington in 2015, the 22-19 loss to the Panthers in 2017 and the 34-32 loss to the Falcons in last season’s finale. Winston wasn’t perfect in those games, but when quarterbacks play as well as Winston did, their teams win about 90 percent of the time.
|ANY/A||Games||Record||Bucs win %||NFL win %|
What do these numbers tell us? The obvious takeaway is that Winston has played on some bad teams. More to the point: The front office might have drafted a good enough quarterback, but it has failed miserably to construct a quality roster.
These numbers don’t absolve Winston of blame, either. Look more closely at his game log and ANY/A averages and you’ll see a high variance quarterback, a quarterback who plays poorly just as often as he plays well. He has had 21 below-average starts (below 6 ANY/A) and 23 above-average starts (above 7 ANY/A). Consider, too, that even if the Bucs had won as many games as this exercise suggests, that wouldn’t have elevated them from bad to good; it would have elevated them from bad to mediocre. So while the organization has labeled and marketed Winston as a franchise quarterback, he hasn’t lived up to the hype, at least not yet.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.