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Riding the emotional roller coaster with Jameis Winston

Rick Stroud | The Jameis Winston Adventure returned to Raymond James Stadium Sunday, and what a wild ride it was.
Indianapolis Colts offensive guard Mark Glowinski (64) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3)  talk after  Tampa Bay's 38-35 victory Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Indianapolis Colts offensive guard Mark Glowinski (64) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) talk after Tampa Bay's 38-35 victory Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 9, 2019
Updated Dec. 9, 2019

TAMPA — You love him.

No wait, you loathe him.

He’s the reason for the 2019 season.

The reason the Bucs win, the reason they lose.

He’s the reason they could do either in the same game.

Jameis Winston passed for a career-high 456 yards, the most by a Bucs quarterback in 31 years, with four touchdowns to four different receivers while rushing for a score in Tampa Bay’s 38-35 win Sunday over the Colts.

He did it by throwing only two passes to Mike Evans, including a 61-yard TD strike in which the Bucs best receiver pulled his hamstring and was lost for most of the game.

He did it rallying the Bucs back from a 14-point deficit in the second half despite playing with a slight fracture in the thumb of his right throwing hand.

Winston’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with 3:51 to play was enough to win the game.

“He was fine at halftime and went out and went to grip the ball and couldn’t grip it,’’ coach Bruce Arians said. “They x-rayed his thumb. He’s got a little bitty fracture. Nothing serious. He was able to get his strength back and come back and finish.’’

You love his toughness.

But wait. It never should’ve come to that.

Yes, you’re sure you hate the way Winston plays quarterback.

He’s careless with the football. Before you can get a beer and find your seat, he has thrown an interception like he did on his first pass attempt against the Colts.

It was the third time this season Winston’s first spiral went to the wrong team and the fifth time this year the Bucs’ first possession ended in an interception.

You’re looking for the remote to hurl at the TV by the time Winston threw another interception to linebacker Darius Leonard, who returned it 80-yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

It is the fifth pick-six he has thrown this season. Opponents have scored 89 points year off Winston’s turnovers, most in the league. His 23 interceptions also are the most in the NFL.

How many quarterbacks can make enough good plays to overcome so many putrid ones?

“I haven’t been around too many,’’ Arians said. “That usually crushes a guy.’’

Not Winston.

You love his resiliency.

But you hate his recklessness.

“I don’t know. It’s crazy, because just the sheer volume of both good and bad,’’ tight end Cameron Brate said. “I don’t know what to say about it.

“I’m sure he’d like to have a couple throws back and all that. But he could barely grip the ball in the second half and he was slinging it still and just made some great throws, some good reads. Just a testament to who he is. Not to get discouraged. Unwavering confidence in himself. That’s what you need. Short memory too.’’

Of course, winning is a great contributor to amnesia when it comes to Winston.

The Bucs (6-7) have won three games in a row, four of their last five, and have a chance to get to .500 with a win next Sunday at Detroit.

The Bucs were eliminated from playoff consideration with the Vikings 20-7 win over Detroit Sunday. That’s 12 straight years without reaching the post-season for the Bucs.

But then, this whole year, the very reason Arians is here, has become a referendum on whether the Bucs should bring Winston back in 2020. One thing you can say for sure: Winston hasn’t lost his locker room.

Performances like Sunday’s — ugly, gritty, playing hurt — galvanizes teammates behind him. Likely, the owners, too.

“Everybody knows Jameis is a warrior,’’ linebacker Lavonte David said. “He’ll never come off the field unless he gets carried off the field. He’s going to do his best to be out there and put us in a winning situation. He did that today. His throw to (Perriman), that was big, man. You see that grind out of him, it makes you want to play hard for him.’’

Ah, but does it make the Bucs want to re-sign him?

That’s a different question.

Arians was asked earlier in the week if he would recommend to the Bucs owners that Winston be retained for 2020. That could mean a franchise player tag of more the $25 million or a longer-term deal tripling that investment.

Of course, he wasn’t biting. He doesn’t need to. But he made it clear how Winston plays in December matters.

“Think about the day,’’ Winston said. “Starting left tackle (Donovan Smith) got banged up. One of the best receivers in the world is out. I hurt my thumb a little bit and we still pulled this game off.’’

Winston pulled it off.

With each throw, your faith may be a little fractured, like his thumb.

“He just tells me to keep firing,’’ Winston said of Arians. “He’ll call me dumb every now and then. But he calls all of us that sometimes.’’

But you know if he hangs in there, Arians knows Winston may reward his loyalty.

You either love him or you loathe him. And if you happen to be one of the few with no opinion, you may as well form one because Winston is going to take you on a hell of a ride.

“We’re going to have some tough talks,’’ Winston said. “Turning the ball over. I got to stop that.’’

Now that’s something everyone can agree on.

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

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