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Should Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston win the Rookie of the Year?

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He has won three times the number of games as the team won the year before he got here.

He has led.

He has become the face of the franchise.

Now, can Tampa Bay Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston become the NFL Rookie of the Year?

According to Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith, he should.

“As a rookie coming into this league, top pick in the draft, quarterback,” Smith said. “We made Jameis our starting quarterback right away. We saw that. He has been everything you want a franchise quarterback to be, so to say that there’s another rookie out there better than our rookie that we have – you could ask me that a million times and you’re going to get the same answer, probably explained the same way. ‘What more can you look for in a franchise quarterback than Jameis Winston?’ is how I would answer that.

“Are we there yet? No, but once we get there we’ll be holding up the Lombardi Trophy. We’re making progress. Again, what he’s done as a passer, as a runner, we talked about him as a leader, just everything I think check, check, check, check is what you do. For Jameis to have a good year and have everybody talking about you is one thing, now to be able to finish up strong too. Again, this lasting impression is what we’re going to have these last two weeks.”

For the Bucs, now out of playoff contention, that seems to be all that is left. The Bucs play against Chicago at home Sunday, then travel to unbeaten Carolina to finish the season.

If quarterback is settled for Tampa Bay, cornerback is far from it.

“It has been uneven based on, we feel like, the play we’ve gotten,” Smith said. “It’s not just one position. You don’t have what I think we need at every position right now. To me, it’s each week. You look at what happened that week, even that play, that series, and if you don’t like what you’re getting, you look at another option. That will continue throughout.

“It would be that way at our quarterback position or our running back position – two positions that have been just as strong as you can possibly have them so that’s just a general philosophy that we have.

“We haven’t been totally pleased, and I wouldn’t say just the cornerback positions, there are positions on our football team right now that we need to improve in order to become a championship team.”

Linebacker Lavonte David said it was the Bucs’ own fault that they didn’t make the playoffs.

“It’s difficult, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” David said. “We put ourselves in that situation. We had countless opportunities to set ourselves to be in the big dance this upcoming January. But the tables didn’t turn our way, so now we have to take this lesson and learn from it because we know what we can be.

“Right now, we have to turn that mindset over to next year and make sure we can be in that big dance in January.”

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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