There was this heartwarming scene on the New Orleans Saints sideline during their Divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was apparent that the Saints’ season was coming to an end, and the Buccaneers would play another road game in the NFC Championship.
However, body language told everyone that it was Drew Brees’ last game.
It’s not the way the 42-year-old quarterback wanted to retire.
But the physical toll brought by an accumulation of injuries made him at peace with his fate.
As the clock was winding down, Brees talked to Jameis Winston while stopping his tears from falling.
A camera caught him saying that the Saints are “his team now” while pointing the finger at Winston.
Jameis Winston on being named Saints starting QB: “It’s been more than a year removed for me having an opportunity and I’m not taking anything for granted. And I’m just blessed and grateful… And I’m grateful to my teammates for pushing me, I’m grateful to Taysom for pushing me."
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) September 8, 2021
Yet, even that blessing from the future Hall of Famer did not merit Winston a smooth rite of passage.
Taysom Hill fought for the starting quarterback role during training camp and preseason.
He also had some success under Sean Payton when Brees went out due to injury last season.
Despite Hill’s volume of work, Winston prevailed when the Saints named him as starting quarterback for Week 1 of the upcoming season.
It was redemption for a quarterback that experts once touted as the next big thing but failed to live up to the hype.
He gets another chance to set his NFL career on the right path.
Jameis The Buccaneer
Ironically, Winston started his career when Tampa Bay drafted him first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The two-sport star at Florida State won the Heisman Trophy in his rookie season, wherein he threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns.
He spent one more year juggling football and baseball at Tallahassee before declaring for the NFL Draft.
However, his first-ever NFL pass was a disaster as Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh returned it for a touchdown.
Assuming that’s it for Jameis Winston’s time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…
First pass: pick six
Last pass: pick six
How poetic. pic.twitter.com/GnBHbMqNC0
— Pick Six Podcast (@picksixpod) March 20, 2020
He did get his bearings and finished the season with 312 completions for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.
His impressive maiden season was enough to earn his first and only Pro Bowl selection so far.
Winston played five seasons in Tampa Bay but never led the Buccaneers to the playoffs.
During his last year with the squad, he became the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 5,000 yards.
The Alabama native finished the season with 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, his erratic play led to 30 interceptions, seven of which were returned for touchdowns.
So far two Pass TD have been thrown in Buccaneers vs. Saints….
One by Tom Brady. One by Jameis Winston. pic.twitter.com/yEaXJvi4Xz
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 18, 2021
As some form of consolation, Winston dealt with knee and thumb injuries during the 2019 season.
He also had a torn meniscus repaired and LASIK surgery after the season.
Winston’s stint in Tampa Bay abruptly ended when the Buccaneers signed Tom Brady instead of him for the 2020 season.
Adding insult to injury, the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl after his departure.
Chip On His Shoulder
The Super Bowl victory for Tampa Bay may make Winston feel that he was the team’s weak link.
But he gets a chance to start over with the Saints.
However, he appeared in just four games and completed seven passes for 75 yards as the third quarterback on the depth chart last year.
Now, he gets a chance to write a better sequel in his NFL career, and he will have much help to do so.
"It's been more than a year removed for me having the opportunity, and I'm not taking it for granted,"
Jameis Winston on taking over as #Saints starting QB
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 8, 2021
He has Alvin Kamara, who is a potent threat in both the passing and running game.
Add a stellar defensive unit to the mix, and the Saints are a legitimate contender.
The 2021 season could be the first time that Winston will enter the postseason as the starter.
He will prove his doubters wrong if he leads the Saints to a fifth-straight playoff appearance.