The former Hueytown High School star has played in 56 NFL games since joining Tampa Bay as the first player picked in the 2015 draft. In NFL history, only five players have had more passing yards and eight have had more touchdown passes in their first 56 games than Winston has in his.
But of the eight players ahead of him on the TD list, all of their teams won more than the 21 victories that the Buccaneers have had with Winston on the field.
“I want him to relax and play the game,” Arians said of Winston at the coach’s introductory press conference on Thursday. “Talent’s no issue. It’s just becoming a little bit smarter. With Clyde Christensen as his quarterbacks coach and (offensive coordinator) Byron Leftwich, he’s going to be coached as well, I think, as he’s ever been and more prepared than he’s ever been fundamentally and mentally. It’s his team, and I’ll tell our players in our first meeting, ‘This isn’t my team. It’s your team. We’ll be as good as you want to be.’”
During his career, Winston has completed 1,183-of-1,922 passes for 14,628 yards with 88 touchdowns and 58 interceptions.
Arians retired after five seasons as the Arizona Cardinals’ coach, but he returned after a year in the broadcast booth to chase another Super Bowl. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh when the Steelers won the Super Bowl for the 2008 season. Arians’ ring from that NFL championship helped inspire Winston when he was a youngster and attended a football camp that featured Arians in Birmingham.
“He’s one of the first people that gave me the dream of getting a Super Bowl,” Winston said of Arians before Tampa Bay’s game against Arizona in 2016. “At the camp, he brought his Pittsburgh Steelers ring and showed all of us. That was one of those times when I was just like, ‘Man, I want to get me one of those rings.’”
Arians wore the ring at Thursday’s press conference.
“I always looked him up when we played him and told him to ‘Keep on going. It’s going to be fine,’” Arians said. “This is actually the ring I showed him when he was in ninth or 10th grade, and, evidently, it made an impression on him. He definitely made an impression on me in that football camp, that’s for sure. …
“First of all, he was a bright student and an unbelievable athlete. I followed him because he was a legend in Birmingham, and my son was actually in Birmingham then. And followed him through his career at Florida State and was really happy to find him out on the field when we played them in Arizona a couple of years ago.
“It’s funny, from that football camp, five kids are in the NFL, and I’ve kind of followed their careers just because they were in our camp. It’s been fun and it’s been enjoyable for me to watch him grow — and look forward for a lot more growth.”
Arians served as the running-backs coach at Alabama in 1981 and 1982, coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s final two seasons with the Crimson Tide. Arians left to become the head coach at Temple, but he came back to Alabama in 1997 to serve as the offensive coordinator on the staff of Mike DuBose before taking his first NFL job the next season as the quarterbacks coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Arians’ son, Jake Arians, was a place-kicker at UAB.
At Hueytown, Winston was a two-time All-State selection in both football and baseball. Winston earned the Class 5A Back of the Year Award in 2011. At Florida State, Winston won the Heisman Trophy for the 2013 season, when he helped the Seminoles win the BCS national championship.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.