TAMPA — I knew it. We just should have told Tim McGraw to just keep playing.
Instead, a new Bucs season dawned and died right out of the box, the kind they have at funerals, behind the same old song from quarterback Jameis Winston, even with new Bucs head coach Bruce Arians behind the sound board.
Guess the quarterback whisperer needed a megaphone.
Is anyone else tired of this learning curve garbage?
For four seasons, we have waited for Winston to turn the corner. But there is always another corner. We have allowed for his learning curve, been generous about it even. But there are always more curves, which means Winston is essentially going in circles. How many chances does one guy get?
Next stop: Josh Freeman.
In the first game of his fifth NFL season, Winston looked the same guy who will do what it takes to lose, the same dumb decisions, throwing three interceptions, two for 49ers touchdowns. He went 20-for-36 for 194 yards, with a lowly 45.4 QB rating. Long story short: Winston was awful. So much for the breakout season.
On a day which saw the Bucs defense actually play well enough to win the game, the Bucs didn’t win. On a day that was supposed to be the great leap forward for Winston, he took more steps back.
There was the ball he shouldn’t have thrown for Peyton Barber split out wide right, which 49ers corner and all-time shark Richard Sherman jumped on and took in for a score.
“Just don’t throw it against Richard Sherman,” was Arians’ sage advice after the game.
“I’ve just got to make a better throw,” Winston said. “I’ve just got to put it on his body. Any time you’ve got a running back on a cornerback you’ve got to be cautious with the throw. Make a better throw and it’s not a pick six.”
There was that pass Winston tried to force over the middle on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line after Arians decided to risk it for the biscuit and his quarterback, passing on a sure field goal. Winston took forever, telegraphed his pass to Chris Godwin, and it was incomplete, but nearly picked off and taken 100 yards the other way by San Francisco safety Tarvarius Moore.
Remember, it all began on first and goal from the 9, when Winston was called for intentional grounding when he threw it away, high over Cameron Brate. You don’t see that called all the time. Think Tom Brady would get nailed? But I think we stablish a while back Winston is not Brady.
And, most pitiful of all, was the last gasp, the Bucs still with a chance. Winston was under pressure, trying to make something happen, only his running back didn’t get clear outside for a screen. Winston threw it anyway,
“He already had one grounding call, so just throw it further, throw it at somebody’s feet,” Arians said.
Winston threw it into 49ers corner Anthony Witherspoon’s arms and Witherspoon took it in to make the final 31-17.
“I’m fine with Jameis other than that screen pass,” Arians said.
“They sniffed it out,” Winston said. “I’ve just got to throw it in the dirt or something.”
Decisions, decisions. Make enough bad ones and they throw dirt on quarterbacks. That’s just the way it goes, and maybe it always will go with Winston.
“I’ve just got to move on to the next game and get better,” Winston said.
Around and around he goes.
Contact Martin Fennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly