New Leaf Includes Beating Coaches To Criticism

August 5th, 2016


Today, eye-RAH! shares a chat with Jameis Winston’s quarterback coach and a teammate about what transformed the No. 1 overall pick and how he’s evolved in practice.

By IRA KAUFMANJameisweat

When successful quarterbacks end their NFL careers, many can pinpoint a defining moment that launched them into prominence.

After only one professional season, Jameis Winston already has his.

It came on Oct. 4, when the Panthers waltzed into Raymond James Stadium and taught the rookie a lesson he’ll never forget.

“I could tell Jameis felt like he let the whole team down,” Bucs quarterback coach Mike Bajakian says, 10 months after the debacle. “His awareness of the need to protect the football definitely spiked after that Carolina game.”

The Panthers capitalized on Winston’s four interceptions in breezing to a 37-23 triumph. One of those picks, on a throw Winston telegraphed to tight end Brandon Myers in the right flat, was returned 46 yards for a touchdown by Josh Norman. Carolina went up 10-0 before the beer had a chance to get warm.

And don’t forget the fumbled snap between Joe Hawley and Winston on the second snap of the game, setting up a field goal.

“Tangible Recognition”

The Bucs fell to 1-3, despite rolling up 25 first downs and outgaining the Panthers 411-244. We didn’t know at the time that Carolina would go 15-1 and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but that was surely the moment Winston realized he wasn’t in Tallahassee anymore.

“In the NFL, the margin of error is so small — much smaller than at the college level,” says Bajakian. “That Carolina game was tangible recognition for Jameis how turnovers can affect the team in a bad way.”

After winning the Heisman Trophy as a Florida State freshman, Winston’s focus slipped a bit in 2014. Five times the Seminoles had to rally from a halftime deficit, as they used their superior talent to finish 13-1.

After being schooled by an outstanding Carolina defense, Winston was a different quarterback. He threw six touchdown passes and seven interceptions in those first four games, then boasted a 16-8 ratio the rest of the way.

“He was already a focused, passionate individual before that Carolina game, then he turned it up a notch,” Veteran tight end Luke Stocker said. “He turned around his season and finished real strong. Knowing him, he put that game on his shoulders — when it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be on his shoulders.”

Winston won over many teammates over a year ago in training camp. If others needed convincing, he silenced any remaining skeptics by taking responsibility for his mistakes.

Every Buccaneer saw the look in his eyes after the Panthers stole his lunch money. They didn’t have to say a word … Winston’s look spoke volumes. It said: “I didn’t give you guys a fighting chance today, and I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you.”

In the final 12 games, Buc fans saw a more committed Jameis Winston.

He was more adept at surveying the field instead of locking in on the first option. He was more amenable to check-down flips to Charles Sims and Doug Martin. He stopped floating passes off his back foot.

Real-Time Criticism

In other words, he was the quarterback Dirk Koetter and Bajakian hoped for.

“It was definitely a turning point in the season for him,” Bajakian says. “He realized the importance of taking care of the football and letting the players around you make plays. Jameis is extremely perceptive. Even in practice, he tells me what he’s doing wrong before I even say anything.”

In the four games following Carolina affecting his mind, Winston did not throw a pick. Not one.

Now, heading into his second pro season, Winston won’t forget those harsh Carolina lessons.

Koetter and Bajakain had dutifully stressed ball security from the first day Winston walked onto the field at One Buc Place, but talk is cheap. Turnovers are expensive. As a quarterback and as a leader, agony must be experienced first-hand before you can truly grow.

Tampa Bay was minus-4 in the turnover battle against the Panthers in Week 4, and that’s a losing formula. To quote Lovie Smith, simple as that.

Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking Jameis Winston’s learning curve is complete.

He will throw his share of interceptions before his career is done. NFL defenses now have a bit of a book on him. His tendencies and how he reacts under pressure are on tape.

But you can bet this isn’t the same No. 3 who looked lost against the Panthers in his fourth NFL game. In turning the ball over that afternoon, he also turned over a new leaf.

14 Responses to “New Leaf Includes Beating Coaches To Criticism”

  1. Wombat Says:

    Great article – kudos Mr Kaufman

  2. Strider ....Sec 147 Says:

    Awesome article great read to start the day

  3. No_Bucs_Given Says:


  4. NashvilleBuc Says:

    Great read. Thanks you!

  5. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    We learn from our mistakes. All the great people I’ve read about whether in business, military, government service, wherever…view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.

    #3 gets it and as painful as it was that Carolina game served a great purpose.

  6. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    He was a rookie and it was our first year in the scheme. Some round here act like the cats are the God’s of football. We lost the game but put up quite a few yards against that defense. I’ll keep saying it losing Norman was bigger than some of you realize, especially considering they’ll be starting two rookie corner backs. They can be had. They will be had.

  7. Buccfan37 Says:

    Winston’s learning curve flattened out after that game going forward. I didn’t realize the Bucs had that edge in total yardage in that game. Sure teams have tape on Winston and will plan accordingly, but I see he is adaptable so I’m not worried about that. This now is the newer version of Winston who is obviously a quick learner. I enjoyed the article also, a flashback to see the Winston progress.

  8. D-Rome Says:

    Wonderful offering Ira. Articles like this is the reason why I’ve been reading your work since I moved to Tampa Bay 16 years ago.

  9. The Other Side of the Coin Says:

    This was a all-pro level article. Fun read.

  10. daldevs Says:

    Ira classing up the joint

  11. Lunchbox Says:

    I’ve always thought Winston compared most to Brett Favre. Both love the game, both are great field generals, and both will throw a lot of yards and TD’s, along with a lot of INT’s. Where the similarities stop however, I think is Jameis’s passion for study and self improvement. This is a very good thing for Buc fans and for our teams future.

  12. Pickgrin Says:

    Great article Ira. Very well written.

    Jameis just has to find that perfect balance between aggressive, careful and smart. Its situational really.

    A smart QB learns through experience when its probably OK to try and thread the needle into a tight window vs when the results of such a decision are probably not going to be good. Is the primary defender’s back turned? Can a safety get there before the ball? Can you clear the LBer’s reach? Is a DLman closing in fast enough that the throw might be affected? Its not easy with the speed of the game to absorb and process all those factors and make a decision in a fraction of a second to wing the football into a tight spot.

    Luckily – we finally have a QB who can do those things at the highest of levels and he’s going to get better and better as the years roll by.

    All Hail the Messiah!

  13. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Nice write Pick.

  14. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    And great article Mr. Kaufman.