On the Monday following the conclusion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2015 season, Jameis Winston said he would take a few weeks off but didn't yet have a comprehensive plan for the offseason. Well, the first thing he may want to do is clear out a little space in his trophy case.
On Friday, Winston was revealed as a finalist for two of the NFL's end-of-the-season awards. He is among five players nominated for NFL Rookie of the Year honors, and his signature play of 2015 is one of five being considered for the Castrol Edge Clutch Performer of the Year award. Both awards will be determined by fan voting on NFL.com.
Voting for both awards began on Friday afternoon. The balloting for Rookie of the Year will conclude on Thursday, January 28 and the winner will be announced during Super Bowl festivities. The final day to cast a vote for the Clutch Performer award will be Thursday, February 4, and the winner will be announced during the fifth annual "NFL Honors" awards show on CBS two days later.
Winston's four competitors for NFL Rookie of the Year are Oakland wide receiver Amari Cooper, St. Louis running back Todd Gurley, Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters. All five had marvelous debut campaigns, but Winston's accomplishments at the game's most important position may be difficult to ignore.
Winston threw for 4,042 yards, the third-highest total for a rookie in NFL history. He was just the second quarterback in team history to crack the 4,000-yard mark and he directed the most prolific offense, in terms of yards, ever for the Buccaneers. He accounted for 28 total touchdowns, the third-most in NFL history for a rookie quarterback. Six of those 28 scores came on the ground, tying a team single-season record for quarterbacks. His 22 passing touchdowns tied for the fourth-most by a rookie in league annals.
Photos of quarterback Jameis Winston from his rookie season.
Not only did Winston run for six touchdowns, but he also provided one of the most unforgettable highlights of the year when he took off out of the pocket against Atlanta on December 6. With 2:45 left in the game and his Buccaneers trailing the Falcons, 19-16, at Raymond James Stadium, Winston dropped back on a third-and-19 from the Atlanta 43. Without finding an open man, the rookie passer took off downfield, a run that could potentially put the Bucs in position to tie the game with a field goal.
The play became much more than that moments after Winston ran into a gang of Atlanta tacklers at the 33-yard line. The play appeared to be over until Winston, who had been bent over linebacker Justin Durant, suddenly popped upright and took a few steps back before heading upfield and weaving between tacklers to the 23-yard line. That gave the Buccaneers a first down, and Winston eventually finished the drive with a game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Evans. The victory improved the Buccaneers to 6-6 and kept them, at the time, on the cusp of the playoff race.
The other nominees for Castrol Edge Clutch Performer of the Year are New Orleans QB Drew Brees, who threw seven touchdown passes against the Giants in Week Eight; Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, who amassed 284 receiving yards against Oakland in Week Nine; New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who kicked a game-winning 54-yard field goal against the Giants in Week 10; and Oakland linebacker Khalil Mack, who racked up five sacks against Denver in Week 14.