Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jameis Winston emerges as Bucs' leader

TAMPA — Through his passion and performance, between the emotional pre-game speech and efficient winning drive in overtime in a 23-20 win against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, it happened.

Jameis Winston is now the leader of the Bucs.

"We're going to go where he wants us to go," center Joe Hawley said. "That's the NFL for you, it's all about having a good quarterback. He's improving each week, and we're ready to follow."

Veteran Logan Mankins, a six-time Pro Bowl guard and perhaps the Bucs' most respected player, said the team is now completely behind its kid quarterback.

"He's exciting," Mankins said. "He's making a lot of plays, and he seems to be improving every week. That's all we can ask for. It doesn't matter if he's a rookie or not. He's going to be the leader, and we'll go with him and we love playing for him, we love blocking for him. He does some things that really excite us and gets us going."

General manager Jason Licht is not surprised that Winston has taken over the leadership so quickly.

"He's rare," Licht said. "He's a rare leader."

Coach Lovie Smith said Winston earned his new status with near perfect play the past three games, in which he has passed for 683 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for another score.

"Pregame speeches, I think they can only go so far," Smith said. "But what you follow is when you see someone by his play. And that's what Jameis is doing as much as anything."

The peaks and valleys Winston displayed early in the season have leveled off into strong performances each Sunday. The Bucs have averaged nearly 30 points the past three weeks, and Winston is a big reason why.

"Jameis' competitive spirit showed up more so in (Sunday's) game than it has," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "Jameis drove us down during that overtime. Those plays he was making on third down and throughout the game with his feet … and the competitive plays were fantastic."

Bucs players knew the 21-year-old had taken control of the leadership when he gathered them in a huddle after warmups Sunday and made an emotional plea to win the game and play for rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander, who was playing despite learning two days earlier that his teenage brother had been killed during an argument near the family's home in Alabama.

"When our brother is down, another one of our brothers steps up and rise!" Winston said. "Kwon Alexander come here."

Alexander removed his helmet and stepped forward.

"We've got a brother in pain," Winston said. "Pain guys! We've got a brother who is in pain. Are we our brother's keeper? Are we our brother's keeper? Depend on the man next to you! Let's go out there and fight! Let's go out there and win the battle! Let's do it guys! Family on three."

Winston then sprinted off the field and was the first to the locker room, greeting each player with a hug at the door.

"You can tell when he talks, it's really genuine, from the heart and really emotional," Hawley said. "And when a guy talks like that, you really respect it. He's a great leader, he's really competitive and he just continues to grow."

Licht said he and Smith watched closely as Winston approached every Florida State player in warmups before the Rose Bowl in January. "Everybody we talked to, that's the first thing they said. 'We've never had a leader like this,' " Licht said. "They said, 'Since Derrick Brooks, we've never had a leader like this.'

"When I was with the Patriots, it was in our scouting manual developed by Bill Belichick and probably passed down from Bill Parcells, but the quarterback has to be the hardest worker on the team. It's not hyperbole. He really is."

Smith said leading the overtime drive provided more belief in his quarterback.

"I think as a quarterback, you get into a situation where it's tied or you're behind, you need to go on a drive," Smith said. "For our team to see Jameis lead us on, that did an awful lot. We've talked about him moving more and more into that role. Every quarterback on every team has to be one of the primary leaders, and we're seeing that."

Winston credited his teammates for their extraordinary effort Sunday.

"I think everybody just wanted that win so bad," he said. "When you look at that film and you look at the sheer want-to and you look at the competitiveness, you see a team that's just really ready to play."

And follow their rookie quarterback.

Jameis Winston emerges as Bucs' leader 11/04/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 9:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494