Can Winston Develop as the Saints Quarterback?

NFL Network's senior writer and reporter Steve Wyche asked the question, "Can Jameis Winston develop [as the starting quarterback] in New Orleans?
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NFL Network's senior writer and reporter Steve Wyche asked the question, "Can Jameis Winston develop [as the starting quarterback] in New Orleans?"

The challenge for every NFL team without stability and continuity at the quarterback position is to locate the one player who a head coach and fellow players can trust and place their confidence in leading the team.

The hypothesis is especially true after an organization loses a longtime starter at the position.

New Orleans finds itself in this dilemma.

Often mentioned this offseason in articles, on podcasts, and talk shows, are the question circling around Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill - "Who will become the starter?"

Payton said to Albert Breer, “And then we had that exposure to Jameis. And I’ve said this, that was really good for us, and equally good for him to evaluate us, to evaluate our system, our culture, all those things."

Sean Payton and Jameis Winston have face the question on podcasts like Huddle and Flow, hosted by NFL Network's reporters Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter.

WYCHE ON JAMEIS WINSTON

Earlier this week, Wyche visited with Bob Rose and myself on the Bayou Blitz Podcast.  Wyche addressed the possibility of Jameis Winston becoming New Orleans' starting quarterback.

Wyche followed with his own question, "When it comes down to the Saints, can Jameis Winston really develop?" There's that question again.

He continued, " I mean, he's the guy that I would surely would prefer to be Jameis because Taysom gives you so many other options.

With that kind of tight end, receiver, running back, special teams guy that is a really hard matchup. So if Jameis can figure it out [he would be the QB in New Orleans]."

There are two elements of winning at an elite level that Winston learned from observing and talking with Drew Brees during the 2020 season.  Consistency and trusting the process in New Orleans.

CONSISTENCY

Winston spoke with Michael Vick on how Drew Brees taught him about consistency.

"It was his routine off the field. He was doing the same thing every single day. Despite all the injuries, he was doing the same thing every single day.

That's where consistency starts.

I think as a younger me, I was so infatuated with the big play...having sparks, having flashes, but it's about play, after play, after play, after play, after play,[for Drew] it's not about special plays, it's about the right play." Winston said.

Drew Brees and Jameis Winston - Admiration

TRUST THE PROCESS

Steve Wyche also pointed out another element of quarterbacking which Winston gained wisdom from Brees.  In New Orleans with Sean Payton, it's about executing the process and positioning the team to score.

Wyche recalled what Winston said on Huddle and Flow, "New Orleans is a process-based business, and what they coach you down there is, if you execute the process properly, the results come...Drew was like...Can you do it the right way, you get points on the board, you figure out a way in the process, gives you the results."

What's often lost in evaluating Jameis Winston is that he has been and still is a winner - Pop Warner, high school, college, national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall draft choice, starting quarterback in the NFL. 

Most of his peers' resumes won't show the depth of winning as Jameis.  But, the New Orleans quarterback has met his fair share of negative criticism over the years.

Why?  Ball security and decision making.

Just as winning can be contagious, so is fumbling and throwing interceptions for a quarterback.

Saints QB Jameis Winston vs. 49ers

TAKING CARE OF THE FOOTBALL

Ball security.  Sean Payton preaches this football principle as a necessity for his quarterbacks. 

At the same time, Drew Brees and Taysom Hill were not immune from Payton's concerns about their past ball security issues.

Perhaps ball security is one of the main reasons why Sean Payton is allowing an open quarterback competition at training camp. 

Taysom Hill recorded ten fumbles at quarterback and rusher in 2020.

Jameis had explosive plays in Tampa Bay and threw for over 5,000 yards in 2019; still, he ranked at the top of the list in what PFF calls "turnover worthy" plays

In that same season, Winston had 30 interceptions and 12 fumbles, which led to 42 turnover-worthy plays - not to account for the potential interceptions thrown but not recorded. 

Let's be fair to Winston. In 2018, he tossed 14 interceptions and fumbled seven times.  Drew Brees like numbers in some years.

TO BE FAIR

It wasn't until after New Orleans' 2016 season where Drew Brees dropped his double-digit interceptions rate down to the single digits from 2017-2020. 

Comparing a six-year career to a twenty-year career is difficult. Most elite quarterbacks who observed patience and continuity from their head coaches were allowed to develop and improve. 

Winston wasn't afforded the same opportunity as a young quarterback who had three head coaches and several offensive coordinators in Tampa Bay.

2021 will be Winston's second campaign with the Saints.

Will he develop into an elite talent as a quarterback?

We shall see. 

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