In a span of six months, Jameis Winston went from franchise quarterback on the hot seat, to the butt of interception jokes, to the abyss of a forgotten player.
Winston's rookie contract -- you know, the one he signed as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft -- expired and barely made so much as a ripple in the offseason waters. After all, Tom Brady was headed to Tampa; why should anyone think about who he was replacing?
Quietly, Winston moved northwest to New Orleans and signed a one-year deal that pays him around the same amount as Brian Hoyer, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon. In fact, the two backups to Brady in Tampa (Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin) make more on average than Winston will in New Orleans. The whole experience has placed Winston at a fork in the road -- either he fades into the ether that has consumed many disappointments of the past, or his path back to stardom begins now.
"My entire life, I've been a winner," Winston told B/R Mag's Ty Dunne. "Little League football. Middle school. High school. College. Obviously, the NFL is a little more difficult. But I've been a winner. I don't want to be viewed as a loser. It's going to come. It's going to happen. This is something I've been fighting for my entire life. Building up to this.
"If people think I'm just going to lay down and give up because of a few losing seasons, that's never going to be the case."
Winston's journey back to a starting gig in the NFL isn't impossible to chart. Teddy Bridgewater just completed a similar rise back to QB1 by doing what Winston aims to do: Learn under Sean Payton and behind Drew Brees, rise to the occasion when his number is called and turn that into a handsome payday and new job with a needy team elsewhere. In order to take advantage of a potential opportunity, Winston needs to be better. He's doing so by changing his diet (he went vegan), getting his eyesight fixed and focusing on making less mistakes, as detailed in Dunne's excellent feature.
That's the rub with Winston more than anything: He simply turns the ball over too much. Winston is the quarterback who broke 5,100 passing yards in 2019 and also became the founding member of the 30-30 Club -- 30 touchdowns (33) and 30 interceptions thrown in one season. Winston is the quarterback who attempts a pass in the red zone while parallel with the earth beneath him. He's also the quarterback with a career passer rating of 86.9, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 121-88 and nearly 20,000 career passing yards in just five seasons.
The numbers -- beyond that interception total in 2019 -- say Winston deserves another shot. The league's ever-churning set of 32 rosters might soon dictate he receives that shot. But for now, his best chance is to make the most of sharing a meeting room with Brees. "This is not over for me," Winston assured Dunne.
And when he does take the field?
"Expect to see the national championship, Rookie of the Year, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback being the best version of himself, taking care of the football, bombing the ball down the field, throwing touchdown after touchdown, leading the pack and being cool as the other side of the pillow," Winston said.