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Bucs' Koetter: Winston will learn from his mistakes

“The best teacher in everything we do is experience,” says coach Bucs Dirk Koetter about quarterback Jameis Winston, who at age 23 has two seasons in the NFL behind him.
“The best teacher in everything we do is experience,” says coach Bucs Dirk Koetter about quarterback Jameis Winston, who at age 23 has two seasons in the NFL behind him.
Published Mar. 2, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — This would have been Jameis Winston's draft class if he had remained at Florida State to use all his eligibility. He would be performing at the NFL scouting combine this week. Instead, he has 32 pro games under his belt and a few bruises to show for it.

Not all of them have come on the field.

He is 23. That's among the best things you can say about Winston. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pointed that out several times when talking about his quarterback Wednesday.

Winston's going to throw some interceptions. He's going to fumble some words. But he's determined to get better every day.

"Jameis was brought here to get us in a Super Bowl and win it, not to win the oratory award of Tampa Bay," Koetter said, referring to Winston's speech at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg last week in which he made some stereotypical comments about females.

"But … he wants to (give speeches). He loves being around kids, and he's got a great message, an awesome message. Shoot, Jameis inspires me every day."

Winston's message to Melrose third- through fifth-graders was great until he got offscript and made the stereotypical comments he later apologized for.

A male student became less than focused while Winston was speaking. So to get his attention, Winston asked all the boys to stand up.

"All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down," Winston said. "But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now, a lot of boys aren't supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I'm saying? One day y'all are going to have a very deep voice like this. One day, you'll have a very, very deep voice.

"But the ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y'all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!"

Koetter watched the videotape of the presentation.

"I know Jameis. I could tell on his face, he got offtrack, he said the wrong thing," Koetter said.

When Koetter watches tape of Winston playing football, he often sees the quarterback go offscript. Sometimes he cringes. Most of the time it turns out okay. Koetter doesn't want to coach that out of him.

"You can't have it both ways," Koetter said.

Koetter said the Bucs had about 90 scramble plays last season. About 10 percent of them resulted in touchdowns. Many others were explosive plays. But turnovers and other negative things happened, too. The Bucs had 27 turnovers, far too many. Winston accounted for 21 (15 interceptions, six fumbles).

Each Super Bowl LI team gave the ball away only 11 times each last season. But the Patriots' and Falcons' quarterbacks were 39-year-old Tom Brady and 31-year-old Matt Ryan.

"(Winston is) 16 years of experience behind, and the best teacher in everything we do is experience," Koetter said.

Winston will learn from his mistakes. That's the takeaway from Koetter. The real shame would be if he stops putting himself out there and trying to be great.

"Anyone who knows Jameis Winston knows that when Jameis gets up in the morning, he's trying to do good things out there, whether it be improve himself, help our team get better or do something good in the community," Koetter said.

Still no Martin commitment

Running back Doug Martin apparently is out of drug rehab, looks fit and met with coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht in Tampa last week. But the Bucs aren't ready to commit to him as their running back for 2017, the clearest sign yet that they plan to find somebody else.

Martin was held out of the Week 16 game at New Orleans last season and was suspended for the next four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, the Bucs no longer have to guarantee his $7 million salary for next season.

The draft has an impressive running back class that includes LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey.

"Doug's under contract," Koetter said. "He's going to head back out to California to train until the players come back in April, and then we'll see where it goes from there."

Who will back up Winston?

The Bucs have offered to make Mike Glennon the highest-paid backup quarterback in the NFL.

Glennon is expected to reach free agency but is said to be leery of signing with a team that has a wobbly head coach.

Glennon has not started a game since 2014 and is 5-13 as a starter.

The Eagles' Chase Daniels is the highest-paid backup at $7 million per year.

The Bucs also offered QB Ryan Griffin a two-year extension and plan to at least protect his rights as a restricted free agent by making a qualifying tender.

Jackson leaning toward retirement

Koetter called receiver Vincent Jackson a "Buc for life" after meeting with him recently. Jackson hasn't made a decision about his future, but it appears he's leaning toward retirement.