Jameis Winston Says Benching Is 'A Minor Setback for a Major Comeback'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2018

Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws the ball during the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Oh, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers demoted quarterback Jameis Winston in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick after Winston's struggles this season, but the former Florida State standout believes it's just a hurdle he'll overcome. 

"It's a setback," Winston told reporters Thursday, per Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times. "But it's a minor setback for a major comeback. It just tells you that you've got to continue to get better. I've never been in this situation before, so I have to learn from it and I have to grow from it. I have no choice."

Winston said he'd never been benched before and said the experience was "humbling," adding that he wasn't expecting the demotion but he understood the reasoning behind the decision.

"If you turn the ball over at any (level), college, high school, it's going to put your team in a bad position to win and we need to win as a team. I definitely understood why coach (Dirk) Koetter went with Fitz."

Winston, 24, has been a turnover machine in his four games for the Buccaneers this season, throwing for 10 interceptions to go along with 1,181 yards and six touchdowns. While he's completed 64.9 percent of his passes, his 10 picks have played a major part in the Buccaneers going just 1-3 in his four appearances. 

With Fitzpatrick under center to start the season, meanwhile, the team went 2-1 and featured one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL behind Fitzpatrick's 1,230 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in those contests. 

And after replacing Winston against the Cincinnati Bengals this past weekend, he nearly orchestrated a second-half comeback, leading them to 18 straight points before the Bengals hit a game-winning field goal as time expired. 

For the time being, it's clear the Bucs have simply been better with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

"I think winning is critical in any organization," Winston acknowledged. "Winning is really important, and winning is really important to me, so that's why I'm able to stomach this and just look on what I can do to get better."

Winston noted that he won't be sitting idle during this setback, however. 

"I know I'm going to be working my tail off to be ready when my time comes again," he said. "Right now, that's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna make sure I'm preparing every single week, being a great teammate that I can be, being the great quarterback that I can be and that's all."

Be that as it may, it's fair to question if he has a future in Tampa Bay. He's never lived up to expectations after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, with off-field transgressions and on-field struggles marking his tenure in Tampa. The Bucs have yet to reach the postseason in the Winston era, a drought extending back to the 2007 season.

More importantly, the Bucs can cut ties with Winston ahead of the 2019 season without any corresponding cap hit. Winston's fifth-year option, already exercised by the Bucs, doesn't include any guaranteed money. The catch is that the entire contract becomes guaranteed if he "suffers an injury during the 2018 season that keeps him from passing a physical before the amount becomes fully guaranteed in March," per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

If the Bucs don't believe Winston is the quarterback of the future, there's little incentive to play him again this season, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to play well. In other words, there remains the very real possibility that Winston never plays for the Buccaneers again.