Jameis Winston Turns 24 with Records in Hand

Jameis Winston Turns 24 with Records in Hand

Jameis Winston will turn 24 on Saturday, raising this little dilemma: What do you get the man who already has 69 NFL touchdown passes?

Prior to Saturday, Winston had been averaging three NFL touchdown passes per year he’s been alive, as long as you round that last year down. That wouldn’t be saying much if Winston was 30, or even 25, but to get to 69 TDs while still calling yourself a 23-year-old is a remarkable achievement. One of a kind, in fact.

Jameis Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ budding franchise quarterback, has more touchdown passes before age of 24 than any other player in NFL history. His 69th score came on the Buccaneers’ last offensive snap of the 2017 season, a bold 39-yard strike to rookie wide receiver Chris Godwin last Sunday to beat the New Orleans Saints, 31-24. That broke Winston’s tie with a Pro Football Hall of Famer and put him at the top of a pretty heady list of names.

Most Touchdown Passes Prior to Turning 24, NFL History

Quarterback Seasons Team TDs
Jameis Winston 2015-17 TB 69
Dan Marino 1983-84 MIA 68
Matthew Stafford 2009-11 DET 60
Fran Tarkenton 1961-63 MIN 55
Drew Bledsoe 1993-95 NE 53

A shoulder injury in 2017 robbed Winston of three games and roughly 60% of two others, but he still threw for 3,504 yards and 19 touchdowns while setting career highs in completion percentage (63.8%), yards per attempt (7.9) and passer rating. And since he had such a head start from an age standpoint, entering the NFL at the age of 21 in 2015, that was enough to make him the most prolific under-24 passer in league history in terms of yards, as well. Young or not, Winston was the first quarterback ever to open his career with two consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons.

Most Passing Yards Prior to Turning 24, NFL History

Quarterback Seasons Team Yards
Jameis Winston 2015-17 TB 11,636
Drew Bledsoe 1993-95 NE 10,556
Josh Freeman 2009-11 TB 8,898
Cam Newton 2011-12 CAR 7,920
Peyton Manning 1988-89 IND 7,874

The point isn’t that Winston is destined for a career the magnitude of Marino’s or Manning’s. It would be foolish to compare any 23-year-old (now 24!) to a Hall of Famer or sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer to be. The point is that Winston’s accomplishments at such a young age hint at significant promise, and give him so much time to continue developing.

A more useful comparison that appears on the above lists is Stafford, who was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. Stafford got a little bit of a slower start due to injuries in his first two years but since 2011 has played every game and recorded seven straight seasons of at least 4,200 passing yards. Stafford is second in the NFL in passing yards and fifth in touchdown passes from 2011-17. It’s fair to counter that the Lions are still looking for playoff success in the Stafford era but they’ve had more playoff appearances in the last seven years than they’d had in the previous 15. It’s clear that the Lions consider Stafford a franchise quarterback at this point.

Winston, the first overall draft pick six years after Stafford, appears headed in the same direction. Head Coach Dirk Koetter considers it an apt comparison.

“I think Jameis just continues to grow and get experience as I said last week,” said Koetter after the Bucs and Lions played in December. “Look at the three quarterbacks we have left to face in our own division – the last two MVPs and a Super Bowl winner. Then Matthew Stafford last week [and we saw] his growth. He has been in the league eight years already and I think he is a similar guy to Jameis – first pick in the draft. It just takes some time. I think Jameis is doing some things very well and he is also some making some mistakes, as we all are, that we need to improve on.”

Winston managed to get one more pre-24 touchdown pass than Marino because he arrived in the NFL a year younger. And the league as a whole is putting up more passing yards in the 2010s than it was when Bledsoe debuted in the early ’90s. Still, Winston’s steady progress and his excellent numbers in his age-23 season lend weight to the raw numbers.

For instance, Winston finished this past campaign with a 92.2 passer rating, a career high and a significant achievement considering how the season was marred in the middle by that injury to his throwing shoulder. That’s the sixth-best single-season passer rating by a quarterback under the age of 24 in a year in which he threw for at least 3,500 yards. Among the five names above him are Marino, Daunte Culpepper and, yes, Stafford.

In his third season, Winston made notable strides in completion percentage (up from 60.8 last year to 63.8) and yards per attempt (7.2 to 7.9) and he also had the lowest interception percentage (2.5%) of his career. He just turned 24, and he won’t be 25 until after the entire 2018 (regular) season. The all-time NFL records for quarterbacks under the age of 25 are 98 touchdown passes (Marino) and 14,642 yards (Bledsoe). Don’t bet against Winston eclipsing both of those marks before his next birthday.


Published at Sat, 06 Jan 2018 12:30:00 +0000