Career Crossroads

Can Jameis Winston lead the biggest comeback of his life?


On Saturday afternoon, my phone started blowing up with similar text messages from family and friends.

Jameis Winston?

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Jameis Winston?

Jameis Winston?

They all seemed to ask the same question, why did the New Orleans Saints sign the castoff Tampa Bay Buccaneer?

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No doubt, the news of the signing was a bit shocking to all who follow the Saints. Why would they bring in a player who has so much baggage?

Winston, who has infamously been accused of multiple sexual assaults and theft of crab legs dating back to his college days, is at a career crossroads.

At Florida State, Winston won the Heisman Trophy on his way to leading the Seminoles to a national championship in the 2013. He was the top overall pick in the 2004 Draft, but his professional career has been marred by poor decision making both on and off of the field.

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So why are the Saints taking a chance on him?

With quarterbacks Drew Brees and Taysom Hill already in place, adding Winston is a low risk, high reward proposition – and the price was definitely right. According to ESPN, Winston’s deal with the Saints is worth $1.1 million, with up to $3.4 million in incentives.

Head coach Sean Payton sees an upside to the 6’4”, 231 lb., 26-year-old. Last season, Winston led the NFL in touchdown passes (33) and passing yards (5,109), but he also threw a league-high 30 interceptions.

It must be noted that Winston played for three different head coaches in his tenure in Tampa, requiring him to learn and direct multiple new systems about every other year.

In New Orleans, Winston, maybe for the first time since he was in high school, will not be the focus of his team. Here, he has the luxury of taking time to learn Payton’s system without the pressure to perform on every play.

This week on “The Matt Mosley Show” on ESPN Central Texas, Saints’ assistant general manager Jeff Ireland said Winston “will learn more football in a year (in New Orleans) than he has in his lifetime.”

So far, Winston seems to appreciate the situation in which he’s found himself.

“Being a part of the New Orleans Saints, being a part with Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Sean Payton, coach Joe Lombardi, coach Pete Carmichael. When you think about that room, that’s like a Harvard education in quarterback school,” Winston said. “I wanted to put my ego aside, put the money [aside], think about my family, think about my career. [There] was no better position than to be in the same room with someone that I’ve really looked up to, someone that I’ve admired since I’ve been playing this game in Drew Brees.”

The Saints’ hope is that, with an improved interior offensive line, Brees will be able to helm the team for the entire season, which may be his last before he retires. If Brees remains under center, it will give the team a year to evaluate both Winston and Hill to see if either are capable of taking over the team when he does call it a career.

If Winston can’t hack it, the Saints will have paid a small price without much harm. But, if he can take the time to evaluate his career and dedicate himself to improving, Saints fans may potentially be on the front row of one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history.




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