Booger McFarland’s advice to Jameis Winston: Less is more

No matter who you talk to, it seems that most want to see Jameis Winston do less motivating and more executing on the football field
Quaterback Jameis Winston (3) throws during Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on Thursday May 24, 2018 at One Buc Place in Tampa, Fla. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Quaterback Jameis Winston (3) throws during Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on Thursday May 24, 2018 at One Buc Place in Tampa, Fla. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published June 9, 2018|Updated June 10, 2018

TAMPA — This is mandatory minicamp week for the Bucs, which means after Thursday, the next time they assemble as a team will be the start of training camp, about six weeks from the regular-season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9.

A lot is still unknown. The NFL investigation into an allegation that quarterback Jameis Winston acted inappropriately during an Uber ride after his rookie season has rolled into its eighth month. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was acquired in trade with the Giants, did not attend any of the Bucs' organized team activities but is expected to be with his teammates this week. Guard J.R. Sweezy and tackle Demar Dotson still are recovering from knee surgeries.

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But there seems to be an agreement on one thing: This is a big year for Winston.

There is a new sense of urgency because the futures of coach Dirk Koetter, his staff and general manager Jason Licht hang in the balance.

With Winston, you never know what you're going to get. He has made steady improvement but has won only 18 games in three seasons.

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What started with offensive coordinator Todd Monken is now being echoed elsewhere when it comes to Winston.

Less is more.

"Ultimately, the success of this franchise is going to depend on one thing: that's Jameis Winston,'' said former Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, who this year will be part of ESPN's new Monday Night Football team with Joe Tessitore and former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

The Bucs host the Steelers on MNF in Week 3.

"What (Winston has) got to learn is really simple: less is more,'' McFarland said. "Less of the rah-rah manufactured stuff. Leave that to (Gerald) McCoy. Be the quarterback. It's a natural leadership position. You touch the ball every play. Whether you want it or not, it's there. You don't have to manufacture it. He learns that, I think this team will take the next step.

"To me, his next step has nothing to do with the physical tools. I think the physical tools will get better. He wants to be a leader so bad. I go back to New Orleans, the licking the fingers and all that (in his pregame 'eat a W' speech in December). That's manufactured."

McFarland's message to Winston: Be yourself, but temper it.

"I'm not saying be somebody different, because Tom Brady is always getting fired up with people. He's over there head butting. So there's always going to be some of that," he said.

"You look at the quarterbacks in the league. … It's how they carry themselves. They step to the podium, they look a certain way. You see them in public, they look a certain way. You hear them talk, they talk a certain way. The way they lead. The way the dress. The situations they do or do not get themselves into off the field. A certain way you've got to carry yourself.

"Just look at the ones that are successful," McFarland said. "They take the heat, even when they're not supposed to take it. They take success, probably when they're not supposed to take it. But they understand that's how you lead.''

On the field, McFarland believes Winston has to continue to get better protecting the ball and with his accuracy.

"I think winning is a factor, but I would add another word. I think he's got to play winning football,'' McFarland said. "Wins and losses can't be stuck on a quarterback. It's got to be winning football. He's got to put himself in a position where his team can win.

"If he goes out and he walks off the field and his team is up and it's late fourth quarter and his defense has got to make a stop and they don't, it's not on him. So he's got to play winning football, meaning he needs a 3-1 TD/interceptions ratio. The best quarterbacks in the league are 3, 31/2 to 1. In this day and age, with the way the game is officiated, 60-65 (completion) percent is normal. … I think (Winston has) got to understand how to be a leader.''

McFarland noted that Winston is only 24. If he were older, McFarland said, he might be looking for a new job.

"You've got to show me the upside,'' McFarland said. "Show me the upside that you can continue to get better. Because if he was in the same position at 32, they would be ready to move on. But you're still here because we know what's coming. You've got to show us that you know how to get there.''

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Costly absence

The Bucs are disappointed that Pierre-Paul chose not to attend the organized team activities, but it's not unusual for veteran players to skip voluntary workouts. He will be a little behind learning a new defense under coordinator Mike Smith. But there is another cost.

Pierre-Paul had a workout bonus of $250,000 that he forfeited by not participating in organized team activities. As long as he shows up in shape and ready to go, all is well.

Deep thoughts

One area of improvement needed for the Bucs and Winston is connecting on deep balls, particularly to DeSean Jackson. Tight end Cameron Brate said Winston has gotten better.

"You guys aren't here every day," Brate told media members Thursday, "but Jameis' deep ball, I will say, looks pretty special so far this spring. That's just a testament to him and the receivers getting together this offseason."

But all that matters is what happens when the throws count.

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Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud.