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Four final thoughts as Jameis Winston leaves Florida

How should his NFL career change how we view Jimbo Fisher? Was Winston’s Heisman Trophy season an anomaly?
After eight seasons in the state, Jameis Winston is headed out.
After eight seasons in the state, Jameis Winston is headed out. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Apr. 29, 2020

With Jameis Winston finally signing with the Saints, his time in Florida officially ends after three seasons at Florida State (two as a starter) and five with the Bucs. Here are four parting thoughts on one of the most polarizing athletes in the state history:

1. Jimbo Fisher’s quarterback reputation deserves a second look.

Jameis Winston was the fourth Jimbo Fisher quarterback taken in the first round.
Jameis Winston was the fourth Jimbo Fisher quarterback taken in the first round. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

One of Winston’s strengths over Marcus Mariota leading up to the 2015 draft was the fact that Winston played in a pro-style system at FSU. More specifically, he played under a complex system under Jimbo Fisher.

“I’ve known about Jimbo Fisher and his style of offense for a long time,” then-offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said in May 2015. “They truly do run an NFL-style system. They ask a lot of their guys mentally.”

That meant that “Jameis is as well-prepared as most any guy could be,” Koetter said.

Maybe he was, and Winston didn’t work out with the Bucs anyway. But it’s worth re-examining Fisher’s track record with quarterbacks.

Winston was the fourth Fisher quarterback to be drafted in the first round. JaMarcus Russell (whom Fisher coached as an assistant at LSU) was one of the biggest busts ever. Christian Ponder threw 38 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions in 38 NFL games before flaming out. EJ Manuel started only 18 times and has the odd misfortune of being the first starting quarterback in league history to lose in three different countries. And there’s Winston.

Related: Stars? Duds? Where does Jameis Winston fit in the list of No. 1 QBs?

Fisher, of course, has no control over how one of his former players does in the league. But with a record that is, at best, 1-3, his NFL-style system probably shouldn’t be a deciding factor for teams to consider in the draft.

2. Winston’s Heisman Trophy season looks like an outlier

Jameis Winston starred in 2013 but never quite recreated that magic.
Jameis Winston starred in 2013 but never quite recreated that magic. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Let’s be clear: Winston was great in 2013. He took FSU to a perfect season and the program’s third national championship. He lit up Pitt in his debut, crushed Clemson in Death Valley and led the comeback over Auburn in the Rose Bowl. His passing efficiency (184.8) is the 10th best single-season mark in Division I-A history.

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Related: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn still thinks about his FSU loss once a week

But Winston has played six seasons of major college/pro football since then and hasn’t been able to replicate that success. His adjusted yards per attempt — a fancy metric that considers touchdowns and interceptions, too — that year was 11.5. His best since then: 7.7. His completion percentage (66.9) was more than two percentage points better than anything he has done in the last six seasons. And Winston’s 10 interceptions were a career low, too.

When Winston was entering the draft, it was easy to blame his regression from 2013 to 2014 on the decreased talent around him. Five years later, maybe the opposite is true: Perhaps a star-studded 2013 roster caused Winston to look better than he really was. Or is.

3. So how should the state remember Jameis Winston?

How will you remember Jameis Winston's time in Florida?
How will you remember Jameis Winston's time in Florida? [ Tampa Bay Times ]

In one word: Polarizing.

In one paragraph: Winston was the best player on one of the best college teams in state history but just another high-ceiling Bucs quarterback who failed to get to a second contract. Everything was in extremes — the high of a Pro Bowl, the low of 30 interceptions, the admirable philanthropy and, yes, the heinous accusations against him. How you remember him depends on which parts you want to highlight and which parts you want to ignore.

Related: 2021 NFL draft: Top Florida prospects, wildcards you should know

4. One final quote

Jameis Winston, ironically, invited Tom Brady comparisons years ago.
Jameis Winston, ironically, invited Tom Brady comparisons years ago. [ Times ]

From Winston at the NFL scouting combine in 2015:

"This is not no competition just between me and Mariota, because one thing about me, I plan on winning the Super Bowl next year so it’s going to be Jameis versus Peyton Manning and Jameis versus Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that.”