Jameis Must Alter His Approach

July 10th, 2017


It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

You’ve heard that trite saying uttered by every football coach from Pop Warner to the National Football League. And it’s not always true.

Sometimes, bad starts prove insurmountable. In Jameis Winston’s case, slow starts have been a troubling three-year issue, dating back to his sophomore season at Florida State.

Even though the 2014 Seminoles reached the Rose Bowl before losing to Oregon, Florida State needed a flurry of second-half comebacks along the way. Winston would dig a hole with early mistakes, then engineer thrilling rallies that showcased his competitive spirit.

But this isn’t Tallahassee and the Bucs don’t enjoy an overwhelming talent advantage over their opponents. This is the NFL, where it would be nice if Winston and his teammates executed with more poise, precision and purpose from the start.

Only five of Winston’s 50 career touchdown passes have come in the opening quarter. That’s a stunning stat and it explains in a big way why the Bucs almost always struggle to impose their will until well after the opening kickoff.

Winston’s nine first-quarter interceptions drag his passer rating down to 71.3 for the game’s first 15 minutes. That’s Blaine Gabbert territory. That’s Case Keenum territory.

Aqib Talib feasted on first-quarter Jameis.

Look Around

In sharp contrast, Winston’s rival quarterbacks in the division have a habit of starting fast.

Drew Brees boasts a 98.5 career rating in the first quarter, with 96 TD passes and 38 picks. Matt Ryan’s opening-quarter rating is a robust 102.5, with 58 TD throws and 19 interceptions. Cam Newton has an 88.9 rating in the first quarter, with 30 TD passes and 13 picks.

“I’m supposed to be the leader of this team,” Winston says, “so I’ve got to start fast. It starts with me.”

While Winston usually takes time to find his rhythm, the Bucs struggle to score early. During the past two years, with Winston under center and Dirk Koetter calling the plays, Tampa Bay has scored only 124 points in the opening quarter.

Do the math. That comes out to less than four points per first quarter.

In opening quarters last year, Winston threw one touchdown pass against Atlanta at home and found Mike Evans twice in the end zone against the Seahawks.

That’s it.

Too Much Love

Part of the problem could be Winston’s unbridled passion for the game.

Every week, he can’t wait for Sunday to arrive so he can get out on center stage with his teammates and compete. All of that enthusiasm is commendable, but Winston may be too emotional at kickoff.

He looks like a quarterback who needs to settle in, maybe take a few hits, before getting locked into his reads and progressions.

Now it’s up to Koetter and Mike Bajakian to work with Winston on his pre-game routine and keep him grounded. The Bucs need better starts — and Winston holds the key.

Perhaps it’s time for Koetter to consider taking a Bill Walsh approach. The Hall of Fame coach of the 49ers used to script the first 15 snaps for Joe Montana.

I’d say that tactic worked out pretty well for all concerned.

Not only did the script give Montana a tangible structure when the game began, it also provided Walsh with an opportunity to let plays unfold in a logical manner.

Through two seasons, Winston has done little to put a damper on his bright future. He has been heralded as the first franchise quarterback in Buc history, but he is not a finished product.

He needs to be a more accomplished deep thrower and at times, he needs to temper his aggression. These are hardly daunting obstacles, and Winston is still a very young man.

But these lethargic starts remain both puzzling and frustrating. Wouldn’t it be nice if Winston came out with guns blazing right after you heard about the rocket’s red glare?

We’re two months from the season opener. The Dolphins will be ready in front of a home crowd. Winston needs to be ready, too, right from the start.

Ira Kaufman, the most beloved and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town, has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out his columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

27 Responses to “Jameis Must Alter His Approach”

  1. BushidoEvans Says:

    Man this was a good read!

  2. goose Says:

    precise article with purpose yourself there mr. kaufman. thank you

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    Didn’t Jameis throw like 5 TDs in the 1st half against Philly his rookie year.

    Valid point though Ira – especially when you back it up with #s that clearly show Winston needs to play better at the start of games. He does have a history of starting slow going back to 2014.

    Although – it could be contended that its been that long (2013) since Jameis had a full complement of play makers and a good Oline to work with. Noles had no problems whatsoever scoring early and often their Championship year.

  4. Seattle Buc Says:

    Fantastic original research. Love Ira’s podcasts too. Guys, is the Commish taking a break? I have not seen his podcast posted since the 26 of June. Am I missing something? Hasn’t been that long, but The Commish returns at 5 a.m.!!!–Joe

  5. DB55 Says:

    Meh. As Koetter once said “all people give a **** about in this league is Wlns!”

    Jameis can score all the points in the 4th qrt for all I care. Just win baby just win.


  6. Dreambig Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been saying since early last year Jameis needs to skip the pregame jumping around like a crazy man and spend that time getting mentally focused. He gets himself way to mentally hyped up and it takes a while for him to calm down. Maybe being another year older will help.

  7. Nole4JabooANDdBucs Says:

    The games speak for themselves. In 2013 as a FRESHMAN at FSU he came out shooting from all cylinders, why he had a well equipped, tested supporting cast. From 2014 til now he has had to make things happen and it seems it takes him and the coaches til the 2nd half to figure it out with the cast of players he had to deliver the rock to.

    Hopefully, the cast he will have in 2017 will be bursting from all cylinders ☠👏🤗

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Great analysis Ira! The Bill Walsh approach may not be realistic in today’s NFL, but certainly Dirk Koetter potentially needs to relook at 1st qtr game-planning. Building an early lead and playing from ahead is certainly preferable to always having to come back from behind as the game wears on. Especially if the running game is working (2016 Cowboys?) since it provides better control of the TOP & lessens turnovers IMO. I think we’ll see a more ‘controlled’ Jameis this year who’s more patient & does a better job of taking advantage of what the defense gives him. His new, more dynamic weapons certainly make that approach more viable.

  9. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Agree with Ira,especially when coupled with early turnovers that set up scores for our opponent.

  10. DR FEELGOOD Says:

    This has been Jameis’s biggest flaw so far, in my opinion. I share the optimism and belief of other posters here that having a full complement of weapons should make a big difference. It’d also help the defense ALOT to play with a lead. Should allow a more aggressive approach which should allow a better pass rush to develop. It all ties together, and playing with the lead is far different mentally than playing from behind (obviously). GO BUCS!! Great article Ira.

  11. Jack Hammer Says:

    Have watched every game Winston has played in from FSU to present and Ira you hit the nail on the head! Great article

  12. Bob in Valrico Says:

    I also think that being the leader of pregame huddle gets Jameis too amped up.
    Another thing,Jameis struggled early on against the good defenses of Arizona,
    Rams,and Broncos.I don’t fault the playcalling,but Jameis trying to force things.
    The encouraging thing was his play against the good defense of Kansas City was much better.He also played well against Seattle, whose defense might not be quite as good as in the past but still pretty good.

  13. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Have to credit Hawaian Buc as being the first one I recall bringing up the pregame huddle issue. I think a good pregame prep would be taking Jameis
    aside to go over pictures and tendencies of the defense and what plays will
    work early in the game to open up the defense.

  14. Jim Says:

    Another great read; thanks Ira, “the voice in the wilderness”.

  15. rrsrq Says:

    Great article and couldn’t agree more, but if Tom Jones wrote this same article…

  16. Ben the Ga Buc Says:

    Nole4JabooANDdBucs Says:
    July 10th, 2017 at 3:29 am
    The games speak for themselves. In 2013 as a FRESHMAN at FSU he came out shooting from all cylinders, why he had a well equipped, tested supporting cast. From 2014 til now he has had to make things happen and it seems it takes him and the coaches til the 2nd half to figure it out with the cast of players he had to deliver the rock to.

    Hopefully, the cast he will have in 2017 will be bursting from all cylinders ☠👏🤗
    All kinds of this ^^^^ This is the first year since Winston’s Noles won the national title that he’s had a stacked offense. I definitely expect more points early this year.

  17. Ben the Ga Buc Says:

    rrsrq Says:
    July 10th, 2017 at 9:11 am
    Great article and couldn’t agree more, but if Tom Jones wrote this same article…
    Impossible, Tom Jones isn’t capable of writing an article like this …

  18. Buccfan37 Says:

    Winstons youthful exuberance will mellow out as his game and the team progresses. This is a good thing.

  19. Buc1987 Says:

    Having never missed a televised start by Winston, of course I have to agree with much of this article. I think Ira hit the nail on the head with his speculation that Winston is amped up and has TOO much love for the game. Not only that but for his team too. He wants to lead them to victory TOO damn bad.

    I still think there’s a fine line the coaches have to skate with this kid. I’ve always said that. I think Jimbo knew it. Koetter knows it too. Don’t tinker too much with the kid’s head, mechanics etc. or it might ruin the kid altogether.

    I’m still very much not worried about JW becoming elite. He will. Not only is the drive there, but the talent as well. That’s not just wishful thinking cause they’ve never had a franchise QB either. The kid passes my eye test which most of the time to me is all that matters. See GMC and my lack of faith in him because of that same test. I don’t trust the hype, I do however trust my eyes.

    All the “he had no weapons” crap is exactly that, crap. They did give him new toys cause why not load this kid’s gun with more bullets. I think some of the WR’s that were there last season might actually pan out with the Bucs or some other team. Not saying they’re uber talented either, just sayin. I was very much part of the “weapons for Winston” club. It was a no-brainer. Load this kid’s gun and watch the bullets fly.

    I’m one fan that actually thinks they might of made the playoffs without all the new weapons. So if you think you’re geeked about the season starting imagine my angst.

    Jameis Winston is going to have a MONSTER of a season. Mark it down.

  20. DB55 Says:

    Would TE tell Michael Angelo to alter his approach? Does Bach need to hurry up? Would you tell DaVinci to slow down? Einstein to be More normal? I think NOT! Ye of so little faith. The opinions of mere mortal men are insignificant to the gods and the children of the gods.

  21. jb Says:

    Excellent insight, Ira and so very true. If he can harness that early game enthusiasm, he could do some serious damage and make it far easier on our defense. First quarter 14 point leads nearly always turn into a win. Take a look at that Seahawks game last season. We hung 14 on ’em early then were able to clamp down defensively.

  22. unbelievable Says:

    Spot on, as usual, Ira.

  23. Nole4JabooANDdBucs Says:

    Sooo ask JW to be less pumped up and ask GMC to be more dialed in🤔, let’s not forget ME was a head case and Aguayo has no talent, All these qualifed couch pro athletes. It’s amazing how well you can perform from the confines of your armchair.

    I pity O.J. if he doesn’t be perfect as soon as he hit the field🙃
    Go Bucs☠

  24. theodore Says:

    Excellent analysis, Ira. Thank you

  25. bucnut2 Says:

    Well done IRA. GREAT read!

  26. HardynickersonforBucsROH Says:

    These points are very true but it’s still good to have a young guy like him starting for this franchise…if he was here in the late 1990’s early 2000′ were talking a couple more Lombardi trophies on display at One Buc. Certainly wouldn’t have lost 5-11 (or whatever the meager offensive output) that day against St. Louis in the NFC championship…

  27. Jim Says:

    Koetter needs to do more runs, screens and dump off passes to compensate early on for Winston’s slow starts.