In victory and defeat, Jameis Winston remains a thrilling, maddening enigma

Jay Busbee

Whatever Jameis Winston was going to get Chris Godwin for Christmas, Winston ought to double it, because Godwin’s all-world play in Sunday’s 35-22 win over Atlanta might have just won Winston a new contract.

Or maybe not. With Winston, even after all this time, all we know is that we know nothing at all. Winston remains the most exhilarating-to-maddening quarterback in the game, usually both in the same game, sometimes even both in the same quarter.

Consider how Sunday’s divisional matchup played out. Winston threw brutal, were-his-eyes-even-open? interceptions in two of Tampa Bay’s first three series. But sandwiched between those INTs was one of the better touchdown throws you’ll see all year, a 71-yard beauty to Godwin that dissected an Atlanta defense that hadn’t given up a TD in 10 consecutive quarters.

For the game, Winston went 18-of-28 for 313 yards, throwing three touchdowns in addition to those two interceptions. That brings his total this year to an almost-league-leading 21 touchdowns and a very-definitely-league-leading 20 interceptions. He ranks near the bottom of Football Outsiders’ many advanced statistics measuring quarterback value, right between Mitchell Trubisky and Sam Darnold. Sunday marked the sixth straight game, and eighth overall, that he’s thrown for 300-plus yards ... but it also marked a new career high for single-season interceptions, with five games remaining.

You get the picture. Winston pairs every good stat with an equally bad one.

Winston’s in the final games of his rookie contract, and he’s no closer today to answering the big question — should Tampa Bay keep him? — than he’s been the last four-plus years. His draft twin, Marcus Mariota, finally lost the starting job in Tennessee this year after four similarly inconsistent years. But on the watch of sling-it-long, figure-it-out guru Bruce Arians, Winston has had a little more room to roam.

Arians has maintained that he won’t make a decision about Winston’s future until after the season, wanting to see how Winston adapts to what’s been his third coaching administration in five seasons.

“For me, it’s just play it all out and let’s see,’’ Arians said in October, after the Bucs’ Week 7 bye. “Can we correct mistakes? Can we get better?” Since then, the Bucs are ... 2-3. Stunner, right?

For the rest of the year, the Bucs draw Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Detroit, Houston and an Atlanta rematch. That’s a slate of games that ought to have several wins in it for Tampa Bay, and several opportunities for Winston to flex.

It’s entirely possible that Arians will decide that rolling with Winston, as agonizing as it is in the moment, is the best overall option. If you get to your destination, so what if you put a few dents in the car along the way? Just buckle up, Bucs fans, and try to enjoy the ride.

Jameis Winston in action. (Photo by Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)
Jameis Winston in action. (Photo by Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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