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We’ve had five seasons to know that Jameis Winston is a Bucs bust

Martin Fennelly: Coach Bruce Arians may not be worried after six games, but history says his optimism is misplaced.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) runs onto the field to play against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in London. [TIM IRELAND | AP]
Published Oct. 15

TAMPA — Stop the roller-coaster, I want to get off.

The Bucs should, too.

The up-and-down career of Jameis Winston has taken another plunge. This time it was an international disaster. He disintegrated in London, five interceptions and a fumble. Now the whole world knows.

This is not going to work. Maybe it was never going to work, ever since the Bucs staked their future to Winston.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians did not express alarm after the long flight home, punctuated by Winston’s game stats not making it through customs.

And just in time for the Bust Bowl, two weeks from now, when the Bucs, off their bye, travel to play Tennessee and Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 to Winston’s No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft. That is, if Mariota plays. He was lifted for Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. The Titans might have given up. The Bucs can’t be far behind.

Ah, the Bust Bowl, not to be confused with the Dust Bowl.

Or maybe it should be confused with the Dust Bowl.

The Grapes of Winston.

Squish, squish.

I bet that boat at the Georgia lake house has never looked so inviting to Arians, the man tasked with turning around Winton’s career. Once he had Ben Roethlisberger. Once he had Andrew Luck. Once he had Carson Palmer.

But this?

Nothing to see here. Yet.

“If it happens again, yeah, it will concern the hell out of me,” Arians said.

It happened in the opener against San Francisco. Then, after three blissful Winston performances, including in the upset win at Los Angeles, the bad Jameis returned with a fury in London.

Winston is making $20 million this season. If we had a $20 million baseball player who couldn’t hit in the clutch, we’d be killing him. The Rays have no such player, never will. If the Lightning had high-priced talent that came up short in the playoffs every season, then … wait, they do.

Where were we?

Oh, yes, the quarterback.

Winston can’t take pressure, the pass rush. He never faced much at Florida State, but now it is all around him. He is not up to the challenge.

“When you get hit, I don’t care if you’re Tom Brady, when you get hit early in games, it’s different,” Arians said. “And we got him hit early in the game … we got him hit too much early in the game.”

Repeating: Winston and Brady are in no way similar.

Nor is Winston anything like Roethlisberger, who would stand back there with people all around him, injuries or no, or Luck, who stood in there, to the ultimate detriment of his now-ended career.

It’s not that way with Winston. It never will be. Sunday was the clearest indictment yet. He has had five seasons to learn to avoid these meltdowns. And he can’t do it. He’s not Superman, we’re all agreed on that. But does he have to be first-team all-kryptonite?

He clearly does not like that feeling of being surrounded by 300-pound guys who want to kill him. If polled, 99.9 percent of human beings would react the same way.

Where’s our $20 million?

It has been five seasons.

“Five games for me,” Arians said with a smile.

Six, actually, but Arians is early in the process.

Winston is down the road in his process.

It’s not time to break down him vs. Mariota. The Bucs and Titans were both wrong. Neither team has a franchise quarterback. They see the rush and the flinch. They feel the rush and they crumble. That’s Mariota. That’s poison for any quarterback. Winston gets jittery. His confidence gets blown by one mistake, which leads to others. It really is that simple.

Sunday felt like the last chance. Not that you panic over bad games. But when you know they’re coming, just know, it’s over.

You can’t say Winston hasn’t had his chances. His career record as a starter is 23-37. True, there is a lot more to losing than a bad quarterback. Sometimes Winston is at his best and the Bucs still barely win. But they never win when he plays like he did Sunday. And he’ll eventually play that way again. Just give him time.

Only Arians can speak truth to power. He is taking his time, though.

“I think as we continue to grow together, we’ll get better and these games will be one in a million, not one every five,” Arians said.

Or two every six

Winston is just a guy. He is not a franchise quarterback.

It doesn’t add up. It never did.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) enters the field at Raymond James Stadium before the game between the Tampa Bay Bucanneers and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Saints 3, Bucs 0: Drew Brees picks on Tampa Bay’s young secondary, but one of the young Bucs redeems himself.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a pass reception in Cardinals territory during the first quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Encina’s Early Read: Bucs made adjustments since last New Orleans game, and it’s led to some big receiving days for Mike Evans.
  3. Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL football scouts and media, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Riverdale, Ga. TODD KIRKLAND  |  AP
    The Bucs aren’t among the teams reported to have attended after a late venue change as the QB and NFL trade accusations.
  4. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans could soon reach an NFL milestone that only Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss has attained. It could happen Sunday against the Saints. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rick Stroud The Bucs receiver could join his idol by eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth straight year
  5. Since he entered the NFL in 2012, no one has made more solo tackles than Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Romano | He has been a tackling savant for eight years, but the Bucs’ constant losing has meant David has never gotten the credit he deserves here and elsewhere.
  6. In his wins, Jameis Winston has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2.3. In his losses, he has a ratio of 1.2. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay has won in only 24 of his starts. Here are the defining characteristics of those wins. (Hint: Winston plays better, but even that’s not enough.)
  7. Bucs receiver Mike Evans (left) has averaged only 3.4 catches and 30.1 yards in five games against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (right). Evans was held without a catch when last they met in New Orleans on Oct. 6, but Lattimore is out for the Saints' 1 p.m. game against the Bucs Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay-New Orleans predictions: Here’s the Tampa Bay Times staff picks.
  8. Fans turn out for the season opener of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa.  MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Two teams are keeping the Bucs out of the NFL’s attendance basement. One is winless and the other plays in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium.
  9. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has had plenty to say to NFL officials this season. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: The Bucs coach has a colorful — we mean blue — way of getting his point across to NFL officials
  10. Former Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, shown in this 2010 file photo, had his own Myles Garrett-type, helmet-swinging incident in a 2009 Bucs practice. ZUPPA, CHRIS  |  St. Petersburg Times
    A volatile defense back took out a teammate bystander in 2009 during a helmet-swinging altercation in practice.