Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston an MVP Candidate in 2019

The cards are falling just right for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston. With new head coach and quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians, Winston is in prime position to be an NFL MVP candidate.

A #1 overall pick with a Heisman trophy and National Championship under his belt, it is safe to say expectations were high for quarterback Jameis Winston. However, things haven’t gone as planned for the face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise. It has not been all Winston’s fault either, as Tampa Bay has not done Winston many favors. With the moves that Tampa Bay have made this offseason though, the stars look to be finally falling in place for Winston to reach his potential.

What happened before?

For the past three seasons, the Buccaneers have fielded one of the league’s worst defenses — ranking no better than 23rd, including being dead last in 2017. A quarterback’s best friend is a running game, but that didn’t exist either the past three season’s for Winston. Tampa Bay ranked no higher than 24th in that time frame. A bad defense doesn’t help either, because it is hard to run the ball when you are always chasing the game. Winston also had to deal with a coaching staff led by Dirk Koetter, who seemed to have no business being in charge of an NFL team. Game management decisions and schemes that did not put players in the best positions to succeed were just a few obstacles the Buccaneers faced.

To say that Winston has had to shoulder all the load in his tenure as a Buccaneer so far would be an understatement. He is the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 4000 yards in each of his first two seasons. In his rookie year, Winston also made a trip to the Pro Bowl. It is no surprise that in his lone Pro Bowl season of 2015, was also the best defense (10th) and running game (fifth) he has ever had.

Despite some areas stacked against him, Winston has prevailed as one of the top passers in the league. Using Pro Football Network’s exclusive Offensive Share Metric (OSM), Winston is the top quarterback in the NFL relative to the success of his offense. What this means is that Winston was more impactful in the Tampa Bay offense in terms of what he is asked to do, how much help his skill players give him, and other factors in helping the ease of his success compared to other QBs in their offenses.

Why 2019 will be different?

What has driven a poor view of his status nationally, has been the lack of winning going on in Tampa Bay. As I wrote in a Buccaneers 2019 season prediction piece, I believe that is finally going to turn around. With new head coach Bruce Arians and the coaching staff he has assembled, Winston and the Buccaneers will be in prime position to put up big numbers and win.

Grouping an already star-studded offense that includes Mike Evans, O.J Howard, Chris Godwin, and Cameron Brate along with Arians’ offensive mind would have any QB salivating. As far as statistics, Winston should be able to put up huge numbers with Arians and this group. For the fantasy football players out there, it would be wise to make sure you have Winston on your team next year.

However, the biggest reason why Winston should be excited is who Arians is bringing along with him. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will finally be putting Tampa Bay’s defense in his scheme that suits their current personnel best. How this impacts Winston’s MVP run will be a combination of how he can approach games and more wins.

In the four seasons in which Winston has been in the league, Tampa Bay has ranked 24th or worse in points allowed per game in three of those years. Just last season the Buccaneers allowed a ridiculous 29 PPG, which was next to last in the league. In the one season (2016) that Tampa Bay finished in the top half of the league (15th) in points allowed, they had their only winning season (9-7).

Having to always play from behind will affect how any QB plays, and it has been no different with Winston. The interceptions have been the biggest flaw in Winston’s game as most will tell you. Having watched every snap of Winston’s career, I will tell you there is a lot more to the story than what the “box score analysts” will say. Being able to play within the offense and not always go for the big plays, as if your team is down 21 points in the first quarter, will limit the number of interception opportunities the opposing defense has.

Playoffs = MVP

As we all know, MVP candidates are not defined solely on stats, but also on how well your team performs and if you are part of a contender. Jameis Winston will have the stats next year to compete with any other QB without question. He has already put up historical numbers in his career, but they have been overshadowed by the losing seasons in Tampa Bay. What will bring Winston towards the top of the MVP conversation will be what is on the win/loss column next to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. With the coaching changes made this offseason and what could be a playoff run for the Buccaneers come 2019, Jameis Winston will surprise everyone as a serious MVP candidate.

Daniel Rodriguez is a writer for PFN covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can follow him @drod_424 on twitter.

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