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Bruce Arians sets the bar high for Jameis Winston’s return in 2020

The Bucs coach says he won’t hold back when giving a recommendation at the end of the season.
Jameis Winston's future with the Bucs is likely riding on his performance in Tampa Bay's final 10 games. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 23
Updated Oct. 24

TAMPA — Quarterback play in the NFL is all about decision-making. Call the right protection, make the right read and living with the results. The scrutiny is instant.

But deciding on whether to move on from a quarterback such as Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015, is more complicated.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians on Wednesday made it clear he has not made a decision on Winston’s future, but he set the bar high for his return in 2020.

“For me, it’s just play it all out and let’s see,’’ Arians said. “Can we correct mistakes? Can we get better? Can we play like we did in Los Angeles six weeks in a row? Or in Carolina? And not have that game (in London) at the end of the day. Then again, that’s a lot of guys around him. Part of being disappointed is sometimes guys around him are making mistakes that are affecting him.''

Winston had his best game Sept. 29 in Los Angeles, passing for 385 yards with four touchdowns and one interception while setting a franchise record for points in a 55-40 win over the Rams.

But Winston had six turnovers, including five interceptions, in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 13 at Tottenham Stadium.

Arians said he will have no trouble speaking the truth when he presents his evaluation of Winston to Bucs ownership.

“I will not lie, that’s for sure,’’ Arians said. “They’ll get my honest evaluation. That’s just who I am. I don’t think they have to worry about that.’’

Last week, the Titans benched Marcus Mariota, who was drafted one pick after Winston. They started Ryan Tannehill against the Chargers last week and won 23-20.

With the Bucs at 2-4, Winston coming off a six-turnover game in a loss to the Panthers, and the trade deadline looming, Sunday’s game at Tennessee is crucial.

Mariota has thrown seven touchdown passes and two interceptions this season but might have played his last game for the Titans. He is 29-32 as a starter with one playoff appearance. Winston is 29-32 with one winning season and has never made the playoffs.

Winston said he’s not focused on what’s happening to his draft twin.

“My main goal every game is to give our team a chance to win every game,’’ he said. “When I do that, we win. That’s my main goal.

“I got to focus on me. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing the things I need to do for this side. So we’re focused on getting a win against Tennessee.''

Arians has been impressed with Winston’s focus in practice this week.

“He’s come out just like water off his back,’’ Arians said. “I like that about him. It’s not like he’s sitting around sulking or hesitant in any way. He’s been really good for two practices. I think he will play really well.’’

Winston has a track record of bouncing back from poor performances. He has had multiple interceptions in back-to-back games only twice in his career.

“You just got to. You’re going to have good games, you have bad games,’’ Winston said. “The only thing is when you have bad games, you got to hope that you won it.”

Both Winston and Mariota have survived three head coaches apiece. The change in offensive schemes can slow the growth of a quarterback. “A lot of times that is the case,’’ Arians said. “Too many systems. This one is only two (systems), so you can’t use that as an excuse.’’

Winston admits he has not kept close tabs on Mariota.

“I keep track of all quarterbacks in this league, and the main person I keep track of is myself,’’ Winston said. “I have to focus on how I can get better.

“Everyone has something they can get better at. Every single quarterback has something they can get better at. But I’m pretty sure that they do more self-scout than scout other people.''

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLStroud


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