With Jameis Winston’s career in limbo after Tom Brady replaced him in Tampa Bay, people are discussing where he stands among NFL busts. While Winston’s career has been a roller-coaster affair filled with disappointment and the occasional brush with brilliance. Let’s look at the quarterbacks who never even reached Winston’s status despite the hype.
Jameis Winston’s NFL journey
Winston was already a headline-making name before he stepped foot on an NFL field, but it wasn’t always for football. Yes, he was one of the best players the college world had seen in years. But he also made the news for the wrong reasons. A rape allegation and shoplifting scandal made many worry about his baggage as he exited Florida State.
The Buccaneers took the risk with the first pick in the 2015 draft. Despite fears surrounding Winston’s off-the-field antics, it seemed to be a winning gamble at first. Winston was a Pro Bowl quarterback at 21 after a rookie season that saw him throw for 4,000 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions at a 58% completion rate.
The following season, Winston improved those numbers while leading the Bucs to their only winning season during his time there. Although he grew his game, Winston also presented major red flags. His production went down in his third and fourth years. After Arians gave him the keys to the offense in 2019, Winston put up a baffling season.
His 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 626 pass attempts were a career-best. However, on top of the touchdowns, he threw 30 interceptions — the only quarterback to throw that many touchdowns and interceptions together, according to Sports Illustrated. Winston was entering his prime without much promising growth past individual numbers.
Now, with Brady taking over the offense, Winston finds himself without a job. Fortunately for the 26-year-old, even if his NFL days are numbered, he’ll never join these quarterback busts on the “worst ever” list.
QB draft bust: Ryan Leaf
One can’t talk about QB draft busts without bringing up the infamous Ryan Leaf. A college superstar, he entered the NFL and immediately struggled both on and off the field. The Washington State alum consistently threw more interceptions than touchdowns and burnt out of the NFL after just 21 starts. Leaf’s struggles make him a liability. To this day, his name is synonymous with busts.
QB draft bust: Akili Smith
For an NBA player, 46.6% might be a decent enough shooting percentage, but for an NFL quarterback to land just 46% of shots … Something is wrong. Never known for his accuracy at Oregon, Akili Smith’s intangibles led to the Bengals picking him No. 3 overall in the 1999 draft. As SB Nation reports, Smith started just 17 games and won three in Cincinnati before burning out of the NFL and moving to the NFL Europe and CFL.
QB draft bust: Jamarcus Russell
The Raiders thought they had the quarterback of the future when they drafted Jamarcus Russell with the first overall pick in 2007. The QB showed some promise in his second season, but nearly every other game he played was a disaster. Plus, Russell was allegedly abusing codeine throughout his career, reports Bleacher Report. It makes sense that Russell finished his career with a 7-18 record.
Honorable Mention: Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow gets an honorable mention because his concerns on the field were even prevalent when he dominated college football for the Florida Gators. Despite a knack for highlight plays in college and as a pro, Tebow’s limited arm made him a liability.
What sets him apart from other busts is not only the fact that he was a late-first-rounder as opposed to a top pick, but that his lone season as a starter was quite good. Still, Tebow never started another game after his playoff run with the Broncos in 2011. Now, he’s pursuing a career in broadcasting and baseball.