Jameis Winston is like that one kid who wants the summer to end so that a new school year can begin.
Winston's Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new Head Coach in Bruce Arians, and Arians has a new offense he needs Winston to learn. With his "no risk-it, no biscuit" mindset at the philosophical core of the scheme, Arians will be looking for his quarterback to play aggressively while also cutting down on turnovers. In addition to learning a new playbook, Winston will also be getting a continuing education on the fundamentals of his playing his position from Arians, Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich.
Fortunately, all of this sounds like great fun to Winston. Continuity is (rightfully) prized in the NFL and it's generally considered a chore to absorb a new playbook and crowd the old one out when a player switches teams or a team brings in a new coach. That's not the case here for Winston, who famously drew up his own detailed football manual at the age of 11.
"The great thing about learning a new offense is you go back to those little-kid days," Winston enthused on Tuesday at the start of the Buccaneers' second week of offseason training. "'We get to learn football again!' Sometimes you can get kind of redundant by learning the same offense over and over again, but I'm excited."
To be sure, Arians' offensive aggression is not a sea change at Buccaneer headquarters. The Buccaneers had the NFL's top-ranked passing attack (in terms of yards per game) in 2018 and they favored more long-developing downfield routes than most teams. The Bucs have not been particularly excellent at hitting very deep passes with Winston at the helm, but they have been quite prolific in the intermediate range.
Arians, who has noted specific mechanical things in Winston's game he believes can be refined to lead to greater downfield effect, could simply dial it up another notch. Winston has produced an average of 261.2 passing yards per game since arriving in the NFL in 2015, which ranks 13th among all passers in that span. Carson Palmer, who started 38 games for Arians in Arizona in that same span, is sixth on that list at 286.4 per game. Winston has put up some big numbers in his first four NFL seasons but a new offense could mean even more production.
"We’re just implementing a new system and it’s time to keep rolling," said Winston. "You look at the years, our offense has been producing here and there. We’ve always been in the top 10 so now he’s just getting these weapons and he’s using them the way that he wants to use them and we’re excited. Like I said, it’s not about rebuilding. We’re about to go out there and make some noise.
"We did that last year. We took some chances and we pushed the ball down the field vertically. I think just having BA in here with just a different mentality is the biggest thing. We're excited to work in his system."
Winston has not yet been able to work on the practice field with Arians, Christensen or Leftwich because the Buccaneers are still in Phase I of the NFL's offseason-program schedule. That phase only allows for on-field work with strength and conditioning coaches, but the players do get several hours a day to meet in the classroom with their position coaches. That has allowed for the beginning of Winston's studies, an enjoyable process for a player who has always enjoyed the grind of the game and who has been waiting for months to immerse himself in football again. Winston also hasn't spent much time having heart-to-heart discussions with his new head coach, though he did fly to Arizona to participate in Arians' golf tournament last month.
"Right now it's football time," said Winston. "Honestly, I'm more interested in learning his offense than learning everything about Coach Arians right now. I think he'll be kind of excited that I'm learning the offense, too. [I'm] just excited to be back. It’s a new start – a new start to get better and a new start to get your ducks in a row and get ready to prepare to be a great football team.
"We don't want to view this is as a rebuilding year; it's not going to be that. We're going to go out there and play good football and be a great team."