Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Jameis Winston looks like an elite quarterback in the making

Early Tuesday morning, he was on with ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike, talking football and Florida State.

Then he was on Dan Patrick's radio show, talking locker room speeches, baseball and the intricacies of calling a play.

Fox called. They want him on their pregame show this Sunday.

ESPN is supposed to be in town today, working on a feature. The network already has one in the hopper about him, and he was a topic of conversation on its Pardon the Interruption on Tuesday.

Everybody wants a piece of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston must think his first name is "Got A Minute?''

Literally seconds after Tampa Bay's opening victory Sunday against the Falcons, while Winston was still walking off the field, interview requests for the second-year QB overwhelmed the Bucs. Seems as if the rest of the country is catching on to what Tampa Bay already knows.

The Bucs just might have themselves a heck of a quarterback.

It's easy, of course, to overreact to one game. But Winston's four-touchdown performance in Atlanta, on top of last year's strong rookie season, has made believers out of doubters.

Who thought that was going to happen this soon?

Just think back to a year ago. There was this great debate about whether the Bucs should even take Winston with the first overall pick in the draft. There were off-the-field questions, doubts about character, issues with maturity. In some cases, the concerns went even deeper. Some wondered if he were a criminal.

There were on-the-field worries. He was inconsistent, a slow starter. He had iffy mechanics.

Marcus Mariota, with dependable skills and a flawless character, was the better, safer pick.

It will take years, maybe a decade, before we know if the Bucs made the right choice.

But for the time being — for right this very minute — the Bucs made the right choice. Winston looks like the real deal.

Didn't Sunday show that?

"Jameis did what Jameis does best, and that's play football,'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "Jameis is a football player, and it's not always pretty, it's not always how we draw it up.''

Coaches like plays to go according to plan. But this isn't a Madden video game. The other team puts 11 wrenches on the field, and one of them is bound to wreck some part of the play.

But Winston keeps on ticking.

"That guy, he has a unique ability to make (plays),'' Koetter said. "He's going to make some plays you don't expect him to make, he's going to miss some plays that I'm going, 'Jameis, you've got to make that play.' And he's the same all the time. He's focused on winning, he's focusing on leading our team and he's tough as nails.''

He keeps on ticking even if he makes a bad play.

"Most guys go into a funk or go into a pout and Jameis, he's great about that,'' Koetter said. "I don't like yelling at the quarterback on game day and Jameis will sometimes say, 'Hey, you've got to coach me harder!' Again, I go back to his training with his father and then with (Florida State coach) Jimbo Fisher, they both trained him very well."

Put it all together — making plays, toughness, leadership, coachability.

Sounds like an elite quarterback, eh?

That's where Winston seems to be heading.

Certainly, you can't put his name alongside Brady or Cam, Rodgers or Big Ben. Not yet. But he's not far behind. Put it this way: 17 games into his NFL career, Winston is everything the Bucs could've hoped for. Imagine where he could be 17 games from now.

Of course, this whole thing could blow up tomorrow. Something stupid off the field, a whole lot of ill-advised somethings on the field, an injury, whatever. A starting quarterback always seems one dumb or unlucky move away from becoming the next JaMarcus Russell or Johnny Football.

Robert Griffin III was a rookie of the year. Two big injuries and a slew of crummy games later and RG3's future in this league is in doubt. The league is full of guys who had a few decent games in the NFL then flamed out. It can be a short ride from brilliance to bust.

But other than injury, it's hard to imagine what could derail Winston.

Every indication is that he's a football junkie. In between his interviews Tuesday, Winston spent his day at One Buc Place poring over game film, getting ready for Sunday's next test at Arizona.

Oh, in case you didn't know, Tuesday is an off day in the NFL. But Winston was working overtime.

It's that desire to be great that has Winston on the path to being just that — great.

Looks as if everyone is noticing, too.

     
   
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