For years, Jameis Winston has been known as a gunslinger. It wasn't a problem when he was winning a Heisman Trophy and national championship in college or was drafted No. 1 overall and then made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
But as he prepares for a second season with the Saints -- and an open quarterback battle with Taysom Hill -- Winston is ready for a rebrand. The first player in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season is trying to become a game manager.
"I never wanted to be deemed a game manager," Winston admitted to NFL Network's Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter in the latest episode of the Huddle & Flow podcast. "… But really, that game manager is not a bad piece. That's something that I think just comes with being a professional quarterback. Being able to not just only do the things that you can do, but being able to do the things that you should not do -- like what not to do versus what can I do."
Winston said his moment of clarity arrived after spending the past year reviewing his turnover tape from his five seasons as the Buccaneers' starter. He'd always been a bit turnover-prone dating back to his time at Florida State, throwing INTs at about a 3% rate in college and through four years in the NFL. That figure jumped to an alarming 4.8% during a dubious 2019 campaign under Bruce Arians, whose development of QBs and "no risk it, no biscuit" approach are intertwined.
After dissecting the film "over and over and over," Winston believes his 30-30 season was an "anomaly."
"It may have been because of a new offense, it was maybe because I was trying to go out there and prove it, it's maybe because I was playing for a lot," he said. "It still puzzles me to this day. All I'm trying to do is focus on eliminating that. And what I came up with is -- in the course of being an NFL quarterback, there are a lot of plays where when you have talent, you say I can do this, I can do that -- but really learning how to manage the game."
He's in an ideal environment for such a transformation. Winston just got a first-hand look at future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, a case study in mastering the finer points of the position to perform at a high level amid diminishing physical ability. Winston, of course, still has the arm talent to stretch the field. But his game is similarly predicated on winning from inside the pocket.
He just needs to make better decisions.
Signing and re-signing with the Saints would appear to be two. Though Winston was relegated to third string last season -- the extent of his action was basically one half against the 49ers -- he learned from one of the league's best offensive minds in Sean Payton. That experience could manifest into much more this season with New Orleans.
One day after Brees made his retirement official, Winston agreed to another one-year deal. With the starting job there for the taking, the 27-year-old speaks as if he's competing with himself as much as against another QB.
"I don't know how they're going to do the reps," Winston said. "I just know I'm ready to play. And I know it's going to push us both to an elite level. … When we talk about the competitiveness part, this is just ball. That's how my mentality is. I'm just focused on ball and how I'm going to get this offense, how I'm going to master this offense, and how are we going to win games. That is it."
That sounds managerial.