Jameis Winston's off-field issues are well-documented, but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner's play on the field hasn't always been up to standard this season, either.
Winston acknowledged as much after last weekend's win over Virginia, when he told reporters, "I'm hurting this team."
I'm glad to hear Winston say that, although this show of humility won't engender the same goodwill it would for a player without Winston's track record of off-field behavior. Winston's quote is exactly the kind of thing a quarterback is supposed to say. It's his job to be accountable for his mistakes and take pressure off of his teammates.
Winston threw two interceptions in the win over Virginia, making it six picks for him in the last three games and 11 on the season, which is one more than he threw all of last season. He also hasn't been as productive when it comes to throwing TD passes. He threw 40 in 14 games last season and has just 17 through eight games this season.
This isn't exactly the stuff of a Heisman front-runner and potential No. 1 overall pick, as some had pegged Winston heading into the year.
Is Winston regressing as a prospect? I don't see that. I do think certain flaws that have long been a part of his game have caught up to him.
Things aren't coming as easy for him this year. Teams are doing a better job of game planning for him and FSU is the hunted as the defending national champion. Is Winston pressing a little? I don't care how cool, confident and collected Winston is, there's little doubt he still wants to prove he's the best player in the nation. Sometimes when a player tries to do too much, that leads to errors and I think there's still a learning curve for Winston when it comes to that balancing act. He's probably taking more risks this year because he was able to have such success last season. Sometimes that success lulls players into doing things they're not supposed to do.
Somehow, Winston comes out ahead, though. He might struggle at times, but he really doesn't get discouraged. When the game is on the line, he locks in and looks like the best QB in the country. His second-half performances against Notre Dame and Louisville earlier this season are still two of the better halves of football I've seen from a college QB in the last 10-15 years.
Oh, and FSU is still undefeated and has a great chance to run the table. The sting of hurting the team with turnovers is a lot less severe when that team keeps winning games.
What's next for Winston? Well, now that he's made the comment about hurting the team, it appears he's given himself a mission -- play above that level for the rest of the season. If he can do that in the Seminoles' remaining games, the perception will be that he identified a problem, put pressure on himself to solve it and then fixed it.
It can't put to rest the concerns about his off-field issues, but it can certainly reassure any NFL evaluators who might be concerned about his performance on the field.
Given Winston's talent, no one should be surprised if he gets the turnover issue corrected.