ONN – Jameis Winston’s 30-30, 5,000 Yard 2019 Season Is Bruce Arians Credit And Fault
Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach, talks as if Jameis Winston’s 30 touchdown, 30 interception, 5,109 yard 2019 NFL Season performance was all the former Florida State quarterback’s fault. Coach Arians should man-up and admit that he, himself, is the one to give both credit and blame for Winston’s play, now dubbed “The Jameis Winston Experience.”
Problem: Bruce Arians Passing Offense Of Today Isn’t Really Quarterback-Friendly At All
Bruce Arians likes to think his passing offense of today is “quarterback-friendly”, because he believes he can win with another quarterback in it. Well, here’s the truth: Arians’ track-record has not proven that he can. He’s known for working specifically with a certain type of QB: the classic pocket passer. In days past, before the advent of ultra-fast defensive personnel, and now ultra-fast quarterbacks to counter them, Arians could afford to leave his quarterbacks as sitting ducks. Not today.
For example, in Carson Palmer’s last year at Arizona Cardinals in 2013, he threw 22 interceptions – that was also the first year of Arians’ time as coach there. By the next year 2014, his second in Arians offense, Palmer got that interception count down to just three. Point is, the wild swing in interception count happens because Arians offense isn’t designed to have short passes that guarantee both completions and yards. Otherwise, both years would have featured low interception counts for Palmer.
Rather than use the classic Bill Walsh pattern of running backs swinging out of the backfield, but still behind the line of scrimmage (remember Roger Craig?), Arians has the very old “check block, then swing” approach. The result? His own offense tackle blocking the end pass rusher winds up standing in the way of the running back on the “check block, then swing” approach.
I’ve watched this happen in Arians Bucs Offense on the All-22 NFL Website, and find myself wondering if Arians is actually studying the behavior of his own offensive designs? Remember how former Bucs and now Carolina Panthers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy said that the way to get to Jameis Winston was to crush the pass pocket because he steps up in it? Well, what’s the logical answer to that observation? Simple: have Jameis Winston roll out.
Considering that some of Winston’s best throws over his career were done when he left the pocket, that would seem like a logical approach, right? Well, against the San Francisco 49ers to open the season, the Arians Offense consisted of drop back, after drop back, and only one play action roll out, and no classic roll pass. Moreover, the trend of a lack of variation of what is called the “passing launch point” continued through a maddening 2019 season.
That unforgettable 24-yard touchdown pass Winston threw to Brent Perriman against the Atlanta Falcons was Winston running out of the pocket. One would think that Arians got a clue games ago and designed roll-outs for Winston, but he didn’t do that. But one thing Arians did was constantly put Winston in situations were interceptions would happen – and they did. Just like they did for Carson Palmer in his first year in Arians Offense.
A look at Winston’s interceptions in 2019 reveals a crazy-quilt pattern of tipped passes by his own receivers, option routes ran the wrong way, and patterns that literally feed a potential defender to hungry defensive backs trained to sit and watch Winston’s eyes, then zero-in. That’s what happened on Winston’s last pass of the 2019 Season, the pick-six to score the overtime win.
On Radio 92.9 here in Atlanta, Deion Jones said that Jameis “likes to take chances” and he and Falcons defenders were just sitting and “waiting” for him. Think about that statement. That means the Falcons coaches, directed by the re-hired Dan Quinn, studied the Arians Offense, knew that Bruce likes to design deep downfield patterns, even sideline ones, and positioned themselves deep, in a vulture-like position, and waited. A number of teams have played the Buccaneers that way in 2019, and unless Arians uses a more varied selection of passes and patterns, no quarterback will do well in his system today. Arians needs a series of 50 new, short, passing plays that help modernize his approach. Right now, what he’s asking Winston to do is really outdated, to say the least.
What Arians Offense does well is push the ball downfield. But that’s because of pattern depth, not pattern design. The pass patterns favored by teams like The New England Patriots, short and featuring the receiver running one way, then turning and going the opposite direction, are the standard of the NFL, today. The Bucs Arians Offense has no such approach – no “Julian Edelman” or “Wes Welker” flavor in Arians’ passing attack. That hurts Winston, and leaves him with only a small set of predictable passing routes to throw to. For Arians to blast Winston for trying to make this problematic offense work is, in itself, criminal. And what’s missing in all of this is that Winston is a true field general.
Jameis Winston knows how to run an offense. The little things you take for granted, he does very well. Gets the team lined up in the huddle quickly? Check. Gets the team lined up before the snap the right way? Check. Makes all of the calls, including the location of the middle linebacker? Check. These are responsibilities Winston does exceptionally well, and yet gets no credit for it because he makes it look so easy to do. You can’t just plug in any quarterback; Winston has ran that kind of offense for almost 10 years when you count Florida State and high school; a vast and growing number of quarterbacks today have not. And if you have not watched Winston’s high school videos, you’ve lost out out a treat. Watch this one: Winston in high school.
If Bruce Arians is smart, he’ll work with Bucs General Manager Jason Licht and keep Winston; if he’s not, he’ll let Winston go. I guarantee that Jameis Winston will go to a team with a more quarterback-friendly offense. Moreover, that team could be in the Buccaneers own back-yard. The Carolina Panthers offer a good, possible future landing spot for Winston, where he would be joining another former Buc hungry for revenge, Gerald McCoy. And there’s the Detroit Lions, too. And overall, there are a number of teams who would be very interested in landing the quarterback once called “The Chosen One”. Winston’s success would shine a bad spotlight on the Buccaneers – one the organization could easily avoid by re-signing him.
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