Tom Pelissero of USA Today called it "uneven."
Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times went so far as to write, "The kid was lousy."
However, Winston did settle down and lead the Buccaneers on a touchdown drive, giving the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner something to build upon as he prepares for his second start Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
At first glance, Winston's numbers overall against the Minnesota Vikings, while certainly not stellar, aren't nausea-inducing.
OK, so maybe they make one a bit queasy: 9-of-19 for 131 yards, an interception on a badly thrown pass to wideout Mike Evans, two bobbled snaps, a number of errant throws and a touchdown scramble.
Head coach Lovie Smith tried to paint the showing in a positive light while speaking with reporters after the game (via Pelissero):
I thought he seemed into the game. He wasn’t rattled or anything. Disappointed when he didn’t do some things that he knows he can do better. Felt pretty good about the good things he did. I thought it was a typical Jameis Winston day.
Smith had best hope that wasn't a "typical Jameis Winston day" or he's going to be looking for work pretty soon.
There is at least room for hope. Yes, Winston was erratic throwing the ball against Minnesota, especially early on. His first three throws were nowhere close to being on target. He missed Evans badly on the interception, gifting a turnover to safety Antone Exum.
And that interception came after Winston had finally seemed to settle down a bit, finding Vincent Jackson for a 40-yard gain on a nicely thrown ball.
That's the thing—until that touchdown drive against the Minnesota reserves, Winston was hard-pressed to establish any momentum. It was one step forward, two steps back.
Against the Bengals, Winston just needs to take a deep breath and relax. It may well be that those early struggles against the Vikings were borne of first-start jitters. Even players who have won national championships get them.
In both of Winston's years at Florida State, he completed at least 65 percent of his passes. Accuracy was never really considered an issue with him leading up to the 2015 NFL draft.
It might well behoove Smith and the Buccaneers to up the tempo a bit against the Bengals. Winston's best play against the Vikings came with the Bucs running the hurry-up, which also appeared to help a Tampa line that had struggled most of the night.
Winston told reporters (via Pelissero) he liked what the team was able to accomplish in the no-huddle: "It just picks up the tempo. When you’re going slow, sometimes you get one yard, two yards and just (need to) pick up the pace of the tempo. It just gives you an energy burst and you start playing better."
Rather than start with four Doug Martin runs (as the Bucs did against the Vikings), hit the gas out of the gate. Give Winston a set of scripted plays and let him do what he does best—deliver an accurate football.
The team doesn't even need to score. Points would be nice, of course, but the key is just to pick up a few first downs and establish a measure of consistency on offense. That consistency, in turn, will only serve to boost Winston's confidence.
And really, that's what these preseason starts are all about. We know Jameis Winston can throw a football.
The key is making sure he knows it—believes it without even thinking about it—when the Buccaneers host the Tennessee Titans for their regular-season opener on Sept. 13.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.