Fan of the New Orleans Saints - and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for that matter - are well-aware of the fact that Jameis Winston led the NFL in both yards (5,109) and interceptions (30) in his last full season as a starting quarterback. Some of those interceptions were the product of bad luck. Some were due to the fault of offensive line around him. The majority were due to poor decision-making on Jameis’s part.
Now, Jameis has had a year to sit behind one of the NFL’s best in quarterback decision-making in Drew Brees. To Jameis’s credit, when asked what he’s learned from sitting behind one of the game’s best, Jameis pointed out decision-making.
Jameis Winston says he's learned from Drew Brees that to limit turnovers he needs to focus on making the right decision regardless of the outcome.— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) June 8, 2021
Brees has been known to be patient with the football, if even to a fault. Drew would give time to his receivers to let plays develop, and if the home run look wasn’t there, he was more than willing to settle for smaller gains. As Drew got older and his arm grew weaker, his first look was in the short and intermediate parts of the field. If there was no one open short, then Drew would look deeper to see if one of his receivers had time to get free. But if someone underneath were open, Drew pulled the trigger immediately, regardless of what may or may not have developed down the field.
Through Winston’s career, he’s done the opposite. Jameis constantly passes up the first completion available to go for the big play. Look at the below, for example. It’s third-and-long, and Mike Evans is open on a slot curl in the middle of the field, right in front of the sticks.
Instead of taking the sure-fire first down, Winston is waiting on the dig route to come behind it for a gain of a few extra yards. Instead of taking what the defense gave him, which in this case was a first down to move the chains, Jameis opted to hold on to the ball a little longer in the hopes something bigger would develop down the field.
The result? Jameis gets sacked to set up forth down with the Buccaneers outside of field goal range.
This is the “right decision regardless of the outcome” mentality that Jameis Winston hopefully learned from Drew Brees.
Big plays are great. They’re flashy. They’re exciting. But they also present more risk, especially if the look isn’t there or if the pressure around you is forcing you to make an earlier throw. In the above example, if Jameis throws to Mike Evans, it’s almost a sure-fire first down. If Jameis waits for something bigger, you could be giving the ball back to the opponent, via either an interception or - in this case - a punt.
When the play-design allows Jameis to pull the trigger on his first read, he’s more than capable of getting the job done. See this example of Jameis executing on an out route for a pitch-and-catch first down on a third-and-long.
If Jameis wins the New Orleans Saints starting quarterback job like many anticipate he will, Sean Payton and the Saints can only hope Jameis is able and willing to execute more throws like the above example with the Bears instead of insisting on waiting for something bigger to develop downfield.
Take what the defense gives you. Make them double-down on covering the intermediate parts of the field. Then, unlike what Drew Brees was able to do the past few years, you can wait for the defender to bite on a designed home run shot to get the big, flashy play Jameis lives for.