One of the best career moves I have ever seen took place this week. Entering contract negotiations, and potentially free agency, Jameis Winston has announced that he got lasik eye surgery. Let me repeat that — lasik eye surgery. This is a guy who threw for a league-leading 5,109 yards and 33 TDs. Of course, he also threw 30 INTs (the lone member of the 30/30 club), but c’mon. The guy was blind, he deserves a little slack.
I am certainly no eye doctor and I will not even pretend to know the severity of his surgery, nor how bad his vision has been throughout his career but for me, and I imagine many others, this headline inspires a little hope. I remember the 2013 Florida State undefeated championship season where Famous Jameis won virtually every award he was eligible for, including Heisman, Davey O’Brien and many more. He then led his Seminoles to an undefeated ACC Championship and a birth in the first ever CFP only to fall to that year’s Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota. He left Florida State with a 27-1 record as a two sport athlete (his baseball career is pretty impressive as well) and was the number one draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His resume lands him among the greats in college football history.
Since coming to the pros Jameis hasn’t been that bad. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season after smashing virtually all of the Bucs’ rookie passing records (4,042 yards, 22 TDs) and coming a mere 23 yards shy of Josh Freeman’s franchise record — love hearing that name again. If you look at his volume-based production stats (he has the record for most TDs before age 24), he is on pace to beat out virtually all of the arms currently enshrined in Canton. Now I know the game has changed so much and that evolution has completely distorted the way that you compare passing statistics, but the numbers Jameis has put up are undeniably impressive.
The one blemish, and I will admit it is a MASSIVE blemish, is the plethora of interceptions. In addition to the 30/30 Club, Jameis set the record this past year for most pick-sixes in a season with seven. His 50 fumbles are the most of any player in the NFL over the five year span of his career (2015-present). His turnover antics that are often visually fantastic have inspired countless jokes, including Pardon My Take’s customized prop bet that Jameis would record a touchdown, interception and fumble in his game.
Jameis has not turned the Buccaneers franchise around like they hoped when they drafted him with the number one pick, far from it. His record of 28-42 has never landed his team in the playoffs, but how much of that is to blame on him? He entered the league under the leadership of Lovie Smith, who now coaches an Illinois team that doesn’t even pretend to compete in the B1G, nonetheless be in the picture for college football. Then he had three seasons with Dirk Koetter, only to have him fired and replaced by Bruce Arians, who I actually love. Bruce is looking to revive his career after a brief hiatus and after a spat of early season growing pains between coach and QB, they finished the season on a 6-2 run, after stringing together a six game winning streak.
Winston has not proven himself to be a reliable franchise quarterback in the NFL, and he’s had more than enough time to show that. At the same time, though, if you’re Burce Arians, Jason Licht, or any of the GMs or coaches in the league do you not have to pause and take a longer look at this guy after getting his vision fixed? He’s thrown for nearly 20,000 yards and 121 TDs in five seasons, and he did all that without being able to see properly. Maybe I’m too much of a believer, but I think he deserves a shot with his improved vision. As the saying goes, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” Jameis’ clear eyes won’t solve all his problems, primarily the fumble issue, but it just might turn enough of those interceptions into touchdowns for us to talk very differently about the Heisman winning, first overall draft pick out of Florida State. Will a team give this guy big money betting on the surgery?
Watching Jameis Winston play football is a unique experience that very few athletes bring to sports. He makes you think that quite literally anything could happen on any given play. He could get under center and toss Mike Evans a sixty yard dart in stride on his way to the endzone. He is also equally likely to scramble aimlessly in the pocket, strip sack himself and have a D-Lineman take it for six, but you love the ride either way. He makes me feel an excitement that very few other players provide, and for that reason I choose to root for him. All I can say is that with his impressive production over his early career, it’d be hard for me to not at least entertain the idea of signing him as my franchise QB, but then again that might be why I’m watching from my couch.