Saints seem willing to take chance on talent over inconsistency with Jameis Winston

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Jameis Winston
(Photo: Parker Waters)

The willingness to stop at nothing to build a Super Bowl championship roster continues in New Orleans.

After trading picks no fewer than three times to move up for a specific player in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Saints are possibly closing in on making the most glaring choice between quantity and quality.

Various reports have the Saints set to sign Jameis Winston to a one-year deal.

If a one-year deal, the situation would set up the same as the situation with Teddy Bridgewater in New Orleans. Bridgewater signed a one-year deal to serve as a backup to Drew Brees before both sides would re-evaluate the marriage. Bridgewater was 26 when he came to New Orleans, the same age of Winston today.

Where the Saints and Winston are concerned, the blueprint is already in place. We’ve seen that act previously.

On Aug. 29, 2018, The Saints acquired Bridgewater and a sixth-round draft pick from the New York Jets in exchange for a third-round pick.

Bridgewater got to sit, watch and learn. He got a chance for an audition, starting the final game of the 2018 season against Carolina after the Saints had already clinched home field advantage in the NFC.

In that contest, Bridgewater completed 14-of-22 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Saints lost 33-14.

It was not the performance he wanted but it did not hurt his chances of finding another suitor.

Bridgewater fended off an opportunity to possibly start in his hometown of Miami and re-signed with the Saints, signing a fully guaranteed one-year, $7.25 million deal with New Orleans.

The move would pay off handsomely.

The feeling was obvious.

Bridgewater knew he was with an outstanding team with a chance to win the Super Bowl. He knew he was in a terrific offensive system with superb coaching from which to learn. He knew he was playing behind a 40-year-old quarterback who was seemingly nearing the end of his career. He was willing to stay as the man in waiting, with Brees set to exit stage left at the end of a glorious career after winning a second Super Bowl.

Fate intervened.

Brees hurt his thumb in Week 2 at Los Angeles and Bridgewater was pressed into action against the Rams. Brees required surgery and would miss the next five games.

Given his chance to shine, Bridgewater completed 67.9 percent of his passes and threw for nine touchdowns with just two interceptions.

Bridgewater passed his second audition with flying colors.

When Brees returned, he played very well, at the same high level he had ever played at. The Saints won 13 games but were upset by Minnesota in the playoffs.

Brees, still playing at a high level and with a true contender, opted to return for at least one more season on a two-year contract.

Bridgewater, now 27, having rehabilitated his image with other NFL teams about any lingering concerns regarding his terrible knee injury in 2016, was ready for his opportunity to start.

That opportunity came from Carolina, a division rival. New Orleans, because of Bridgewater’s hefty contract with the Panthers, is expected to get a compensatory third-round pick next season.

Bridgewater was never going to return to the Saints after Brees decided to come back. He wanted and got his chance to start and got his pay day, deservedly.

Now, a talented but complicated quarterback from another division rival may join the team he once competed against in heated fashion.

Winston has a chance to come to New Orleans, prove that he is a good citizen and a team player, learn in the process and to be ready to step in and have a chance to take over whenever Brees decides to depart.

Of course, Winston understands he would have to compete with Taysom Hill, whenever that time comes, and he is more than willing to do so.

The Saints value Hill greatly, having placed a first-round tender to retain his services and reportedly agreeing with him on a two-year deal worth up to $21 million. Sean Payton clearly loves the talent and has a real vision for utilizing Hill at quarterback but no one can be certain if Hill can be that guy, having thrown just 13 passes in his NFL career.

Winston has thrown 2,548 passes.

There is much to like and much to dislike about him.

The positives are obvious.

Winston is just 26. He has a big arm, big talent. He is mobile, with the ability to escape pressure and make plays with his legs. Winston has rushed for 1,044 yards and 10 touchdowns. Winston threw for 121 touchdowns with Tampa Bay.

Ironically, Winston’s first win as an NFL quarterback was a 26-19 victory over the Saints on Sept. 20, 2015 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Another indication of the excitement and disappointment surrounding Winston is the fact that he accounted for 11 touchdowns and had 11 turnovers in nine games against the Saints.

As for the negatives, there are questions about Winston’s maturity.

In five seasons, Winston went 28-42 as a starter with the Buccaneers, leading them to just one winning season and no playoff appearances. He had a very good receiving corps most recently in Tampa Bay with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, among others.

In his five seasons, Winston has completed 61.3 percent of his passes but has thrown 88 interceptions, an average of 17.6 per season.

Winston is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

The 2019 season encapsulated the dilemma that is Winston perfectly.

On the plus side, Winston threw for 5,109 yards, leading the NFL. He threw for 33 touchdowns to lead the league. He is tough, willing to play through injuries. Last season, Winston played with a torn meniscus and a broken thumb. He is a fierce competitor. Like Hill, Winston has the ability extend plays and run with the football.

The negatives were the 30 interceptions and the fact that he had a QBR of 53.7, second worst among starters in the NFL. In 2018, Winston had a QBR of 69.7, easily his best in four seasons in the league. He completed just 60.7 percent of his passes 2019, ranked 27th in the league among 32 NFL starting quarterbacks.

Even in his best season in 2018, Winston completed 64.6 percent of his throws which would have placed him 14th in the NFL this year.

Another troubling statistic is the fact that Winston has fumbled 50 times in five seasons, a truly alarming number. He fumbled 12 times in 2019.

The most Brees has ever fumbled is 10 times and that was in the Super Bowl Championship season of 2009. By comparison, Brees has averaged 5.6 fumbles per season in his 19-year career.

Some may still be bothered about Winston’s lingering image dating from his time at Florida State.

In 2012, Winston and some FSU teammates were held by campus police for allegedly firing BB guns at squirrels and there was an incident on campus where he stood on a table and yelled the words of a crude vulgarity aimed at a woman.

Winston was suspended by coach Jimbo Fisher for one game following the latter incident.

Then, in 2013, Winston he was accused of sexual assault in 2013 by a Florida State student.

Winston and Florida State settled on financial compensation out of court with the accuser. Winston was never arrested following criminal investigations by the Tallahassee police and a state prosecutor. Winston was cleared during a hearing in December of 2014 into whether he violated the student conduct code.

In 2016, an Uber driver accused Winston of groping her. He reached a settlement with the accuser in 2018. Meanwhile, the NFL investigated and determined that Winston engaged in detrimental conduct with the woman, touching her in an “inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”

As a result, Winston was suspended for the first three games of 2018, costing him a reported $124,411 in game checks.

On the field for the Seminoles, Winston shined on the way to a Heisman Trophy and national championship victory.

Making the NFL All-Rookie Team and the Pro Bowl in 2015, his pro career began with great promise.

At a young age and with tons of ability, that promise is still there.

For those who want to scrutinize the player and his performance further, simply look at what occurred in February, when he underwent LASIK surgery.

Winston is the ultimate love or hate quarterback, the quintessential example of a boom or bust player. He can be strikingly good or alarmingly bad, depending on which week, which game you saw him play.

Nothing summarizes the peculiar nature of the player as this.

Winston’s first pass in his rookie season with Tampa Bay resulted in a pick-six. Winston’s last pass, in his fifth season with the Buccaneers, resulted in a pick six.

For those that love Winston’s age, obvious physical skills, experience and a chance to mature in a stable, winning system, this will look the part of an outstanding, if not brilliant move by Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton.

For those that hate Winston’s ball security, decision making, accuracy and perceived maturity issues, this will look the part of a confusing, negative, pointless move.

Like Bridgewater, Winston has a chance to rehabilitate himself, in a different situation with different concerns, with the Saints. It may or may not happen.

Such is the nature of a quarterback who is, in a word, maddening.

Though he will never appear on the cover of a Madden video game, Winston has a chance to be the cover boy, make that man, in New Orleans, for better or for worse.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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