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The hope still invested in Jameis Winston

The Face of Tampa Bay sports? How about the quarterback the Bucs remain convinced can lead them back to respectability.
Jameis Winston, in center, talks with kids while playing games during his Dream Forever Foundation Football Camp on June 6, 2019 at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Florida. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jul. 8
Updated Jul. 8

TAMPA — When Bruce Arians took over as coach this year, his first order of business was to make it clear that the Bucs are Jameis Winston’s team.

Most franchise quarterbacks normally don’t need that stamp of approval from the coach, but Winston’s tenure has been anything but normal.

Who is the face of Tampa Bay sports?

Still, in Tampa Bay, football is king. And the Bucs have the longest history of any team in the market, and with it, the deepest connection to fans. Past players are revered, especially those who were part of the 2002 season’s Super Bowl-winning team.

Even with the Bucs’ seven last-place division finishes over the past eight seasons, being a team’s franchise quarterback should be enough to be considered the face of Tampa Bay sports.

Winston’s off-field issues — which include allegations of sexual assault at Florida State and a three-game suspension last season for violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy over allegations he groped an Uber driver — are well-documented.

Winston is immensely talented. He can be very engaging. He’s great with kids at his community events. In 2017 he started a foundation to help kids in financial need. At times on the field, it seems as if he’s on the verge of greatness.

But after four years of watching Winston play for the Bucs — sometimes while trying to hide our eyes — we still don’t know how good he can be. The fans who go to Raymond James Stadium wearing his jersey — more wear his No. 3 than any other current player’s — hope he can reach another level while still with the Bucs.

Who could be the future face of Tampa Bay sports?

After the Bucs drafted Winston first overall in 2015, he and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy were the faces of the Bucs. With the Bucs releasing McCoy this offseason, there’s no question who the face is now.

Winston does some things so well. He has an engaging smile. Though he has toned down some of his on-field behavior — he’s no longer eating W’s in pregame huddles — his vigor for the game is always noticeable.

He has cut down on his fumbles. Reducing his interceptions is on Arians’ to-do list. And more than anything, fans want to see him lead the Bucs to the postseason.

Winston leads an exciting offense, one that racks up passing yards with any offense in the NFL, but quarterbacks are paid to win. This year Winston is being paid $20.9 million in the final year of his rookie contract.

Winston can be polarizing. A lot of quarterbacks are, especially until they lead their team to the Super Bowl. He already has thrown more touchdown passes than anyone in Bucs history, and he will likely break Vinny Testaverde’s team career passing-yards mark this year.

Like him or not, you’re watching him.

Who is the face of America's largest big-league sports markets?

More is expected of him, and should be considering his draft spot, which represented the promise of a new Bucs era. The wins still haven’t come.

But if you’re a Bucs fan — and a fan of sports in Tampa Bay — Winston’s is the face you’re looking to now to lead the team back to respectability.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieinheYard


  1. Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media in East Rutherford, N.J., on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Coach Pat Shurmur announced Tuesday that Daniel Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, is replacing the two-time Super Bowl MVP as the starter, beginning Sunday at Tampa Bay. TOM CANAVAN  |  AP
    The veteran says he hasn’t thought about asking the team to waive his no-trade clause.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    The outside linebacker recorded three sacks in the the Bucs’ 20-14 win at Carolina.
  3. Linebacker Kevin Minter and the Bucs defense have played well. Can they keep it up? MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    After two games, the unit has allowed only one touchdown. How do they keep it going?
  4. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Why things are looking up for the Bucs, UCF and USF football, and maybe not for the Gators and Rays.
  5. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl titles with the Giants. ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    His legacy is intact as rookie Daniel Jones will start against Tampa Bay.
  6. The NFC South quarterbacks -- the Panthers' Cam Newton, the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Saints' Drew Brees are in various states of duress. It could add up to an advantage for the Bucs, but Coach Bruce Arians says pay no attention. Associated Press
    Saints’ Drew Brees, Panthers’ Cam Newton battling injuries, but Tampa Bay coach wants an inward focus
  7. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Caleb Benenoch participates in drills during training camp at the team's practice facility, One Buc Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 29, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Former fifth-round pick reportedly received a lot of interest after being cut by Tampa Bay.
  8. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and coach Doug Marrone got into heated exchange on the sidelines Sunday during the Jaguars' game against the Texans. The next day, reports surfaced that Ramsey had requested to be traded. STEPHEN B. MORTON  |  Associated Press
    The answer depends on the Bucs’ answers to other questions. Are they Super Bowl contenders? Are they willing to give up on their recent draft picks? How committed are they to Jameis Winston?
  9. The Giants will start Daniel Jones (8) against the Bucs on Sunday. MICHAEL AINSWORTH  |  AP
    New York will start Daniel Jones against a Tampa Bay team that hasn’t fared well against first-year signal callers in recent years.
  10. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston hopes to have his team dressed for success as the season moves forward, but to do so he'll need to generate more offense. Tampa Bay plays host to the Giants on Sunday. BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    In 2018, Tampa Bay fielded one of the league’s best passing units. Now it’s struggling.