Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has spent plenty of time making excuses for quarterback Jameis Winston and his propensity to turn the ball over, with 22 in 10 games this season. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen was far less charitable when recently discussing the situation.
Appearing Tuesday on Buccaneers Radio (via JoeBucsFan.com), Christensen delicately placed blame on Winston for his miscues.
“We obviously haven’t found the right answer but we try everything, you know,” Christensen said. “It’s kind of, I feel like we’re rephrasing it in a different way, looking at it from a different angle every single week. We do different things. Some of the new things we’re doing, we’ll watch the turnovers in the league. There’s usually 15 or 16 quarterback fumbles a week in this league, which is shocking to me, even. You know, you just don’t think that. But balls are getting popped loose and guys are careless with the football and it’s usually the teams that are losing. . . . So we look at those, what caused them, how they were preventable. We do the same with the interception reel. We watch often [Jameis’] interception, what could we have done different. You know, and then we just talk about it a lot.”
Those efforts haven’t made a difference, culminating in four interceptions against the Saints on Sunday.
“[W]e haven’t gotten them fixed,” Christensen said. “It has to get fixed. And he knows it. I know it. We all know that. And I think the hardest thing to teach in this league is a quarterback who can get himself out of trouble and make some plays. . . . When do you cut your losses and get rid of the ball and punt it? These guys are wired such that it’s hard for them to give up on a play. You know, I get frustrated like [Jameis] does, like fans do, like everybody does. . . . That’s a hard teach, just because of how they are wired. It’s hard to just give up on a play. It’s a skill that has to be learned.”
Christensen is right, but at some point a quarterback either learns it, or he never does.
“We should be learning it now,” Christensen said. “It’s the fifth year. We’re not a rookie any more. And slowly but surely I think he’s got better on the protection thing and not taking the sacks and just being able to throw the thing out of bounds. But we still have the turnovers. We had the four this week. And they’re not all on the quarterbacks. Ours are unit-wide, but certainly, you know, our [quarterback] part is significant and we have to cut them out.”
Every team could blame a large chunk of its quarterbacks’ turnovers on others. But the turnovers still belong to the quarterback. And if the receivers are running bad routes or tipping into the air passes that should be caught, it’s on the quarterback at some level to demand a higher degree of accountability. Some quarterbacks (like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady) know how to do that, which contributes to reduced turnovers that would have been the fault of someone other than the quarterback.
The proof is in the numbers. Russell Wilson has 23 touchdowns and two interceptions. Kirk Cousins has 21 and three. Patrick Mahomes has 19 and two. Aaron Rodgers has 17 and two. Quarterbacks can move the ball effectively, without generating interceptions that are or aren’t his fault.
This season, Jameis Winston has 19 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions. In year five of his career, that’s not good enough to make him a franchise quarterback. While he has the skills to be a franchise’s quarterback next year and beyond (because there simply aren’t enough competent quarterbacks to go around), it’s safe to say that he has arrived at his ceiling, and that his ceiling keeps him from being regarded as a top-half-of-the-league quarterback.
Because there’s a bottom half of the league, too, it means he’ll have a job next year. But no one should expect him to suddenly become a better quarterback than what he has become during his time in the NFL.