Bucs undaunted by Winston’s picks, as long as he stops throwing them

Darin Gantt

The Buccaneers know they have a big decision to make on quarterback Jameis Winston after this season.

But before they get to the big numbers in a possible second contract, they have to see if they can push through the big numbers on the back of Winston’s football card.

Specifically, new quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen told Albert Breer of SI.com that he wasn’t scared by Winston’s 58 interceptions in his first four seasons.

Christensen did some quick googling, and pointed out that Peyton Manning thew 81 picks his first four seasons, that Andrew Luck threw 55, and Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford threw 54 each.

Your first four years, you throw a bunch of interceptions,” Christensen said. “Almost all of them did. [Matt] Ryan had less, but they ran the ball in Atlanta, he went to a little bit better football team. But you look at all the numbers, [Winston] had thrown for 14,000 yards. I just hadn’t seen [the Bucs] on TV and they hadn’t won.

“So I wasn’t aware of it, but his numbers were solid for a guy who missed a couple of games with injury, a couple of games with suspension. His numbers were right up in there with all the others, what we would assess as really good players.”

Of course, there’s more to it that raw interception numbers, as Winston has created a complex calculus for the Bucs by dealing with off-field problems including last year’s suspension (for a 2016 allegation of groping an Uber driver). But as they put a new staff around him that’s geared toward making things easier on the quarterback, the Bucs are willing to isolate their evaluation to the football side of the equation.

“You’re going into your fifth year, you’re not the rookie anymore,” Christensen said. “It’s time. Stuff really should show up now. That fourth and fifth year, the sixth year, is when it should click. Now, you have to put a supporting cast around him, and give him a chance too. That’s a big part of this thing. But you’re a veteran guy now. Dumb interceptions are not OK, bad judgment’s not OK, that stuff is what you’ve been working on for four years, getting the experience.”

Winston’s in a pivotal year, playing out the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. A big season could make him a wealthy man, but continuing to throw it to the other team could send his career in a different direction.