Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL 2015 Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers has had a Hall of Fame statistical start to his NFL career. The knock-on Winston is that he turns the ball over too much, as evidenced by the 30 picks he threw in 2019, becoming the first QB in history to throw 30 picks and have 30 TDs — a dubious distinction to some, depending on how they choose to frame the narrative.
Despite the fact that Winston threw just 25 picks combined in his previous two seasons while also becoming Tampa Bay’s all-time passing leader in just six seasons, media has labeled him “a bust” and seem hyperfocused on the interceptions (which can always be tempered with the right coaching and system) rather than the production.
Common sense would tell you that he was primed for a great season in 2020, considering his head coach Bruce Arian’s track record with quarterbacks in their first season under his tutelage.
Interceptions by a QB in their first year under Bruce Arians:
Peyton Manning(1998): 28
Tim Couch(2001): 21
Andrew Luck(2012): 18
Carson Palmer(2013): 22
Jameis had more Passing yards than any of these guys btw.
— M🇩🇯 (@_MOUB) March 20, 2020
Hall of Fame Gunslingers Throw TDs…And Picks Too
Just for the record, there have been more than a few Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have had 30-pick seasons or close to it.
Sid Luckman threw 31 INT’s in 1947, George Blanda had 42 picks in 1962, 27 in 1964 and another 30 in 1965 with the Houston Oilers. Fran Tarkenton had 32 in 1978 and Ken “Snake” Stabler threw 30 in that same season and another 28 in 1980. As previously mentioned, Peyton Manning had 28 picks in 1998. Brett Favre, who was lauded for his risk-taking with the pigskin, had 29 in 2005. Joe Namath had a 27-pick season in 1966 and then had two seasons with 28 (1967, 1975), which makes Jameis’ previous high of 18 seem modest.
Drew Bledsoe threw for a league-leading 4,555 yards for the New England Patriots in 1994 and also led the league with 27 picks. (Noone called him a bust. He was considered a future Hall of Famer)
With the success that these quarterbacks had — many winning Super Bowls– one could conclude that quarterbacks in the mold of playmaking “gunslinger” rather than talented game-manager traditionally throw more picks. Especially, when they play for bad teams.
It all comes down to personal preference. How one chooses to analyze the data. If we use the eye test and give history its proper influence in the equation, then Winston getting released and signing with the New Orleans Saints might be seen as unfair.
On the flip side, according to Jameis1of1, author of the Amazon best-seller “Jameis Winston Derangement Syndrome: How Media Bias Causes Us to Overlook the Start of a Hall of Fame NFL Career”, it could also be perceived as a destiny that the gifted Winston was always intended to share with Drew Brees.
Peas In A Pod?
Jameis1of1: Fourteen years ago, Drew Brees had just signed with the New Orleans Saints after having been shown the door by the team that drafted him – the San Diego Chargers – who chose to ride into the future with the #4 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Philip Rivers, despite the fact Brees had just thrown for a career-high in passing yards in the previous season – his fifth in the NFL – and despite him having finished top 10 in the NFL in both passing yards and TD passes.
Fourteen years later, Jameis Winston has also just signed with the Saints after having been shown the door by the team that drafted him – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – who chose to ride into the future with 43-year-old, six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, despite the fact Winston had just thrown for a career-high in passing yards in the previous season – his fifth in the NFL – and despite him having lead the league in passing yards (5109) and thrown more TD passes (33) than anyone other than MVP Lamar Jackson.
Both Brees and Winston were drafted to the worst teams in the NFL, Brees as the 32nd overall pick to a 1-15 Chargers team and Winston #1 overall to a 2-14 Buccaneers team. Neither quarterback won a playoff game in their first five seasons, while both quarterbacks had once been benched for a veteran journeyman quarterback, with Brees being benched for five games in his third season for Doug Flutie, and Winston being benched for three games in his fourth season for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
However, both quarterbacks had also shown a great deal of promise. Brees finished third in the NFL in passer rating in his fourth season and earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a Charger. Winston, on the other hand, become the youngest Pro Bowl QB in NFL history as a rookie and proceeded to not only win the passing yardage crown in his fifth season but became the all-time leader in career passing yards in NFL history by the age of 26, while also ranking second in TD passes in NFL history by the same age, to only Dan Marino.
Drew Brees’ Football Doppelganger: Play Hard, Pray Hard
If the above isn’t enough to make you wonder if Jameis Winston just might be Drew Brees’ football doppelganger, consider that earlier this year, Winston had multiple surgeries (as he played through the 2019 season on a torn meniscus and with a broken thumb on his throwing hand) and was rehabbing in the exact same facility in Birmingham, Alabama, where fourteen years earlier, as a twelve-year-old quarterback phenom, he had met Drew Brees who was doing his own rehab, and received the first autograph Brees signed for anyone as a member of the New Orleans Saints!
Some may read the above and think to themselves that reality really is stranger than fiction at times. However, as both Brees and Winston are also devout Christians, it may just be that the good Lord moves in mysterious ways after all, and that Winston and Brees were always meant to be teammates in the 2020 season, and Winston was always meant to one day succeed Brees as the Saints starting QB, once Brees retires.
And, if the below statistical tables are a portent of things to come Saints fans may just see both a former Charger quarterback and a former Buccaneer quarterback one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as New Orleans Saints!