Florida State

As leadership grows, Jameis Winston’s future only looks even brighter

Jameis Winston
Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

He looked like a well-seasoned veteran, not a quarterback beginning his third year. For those who know him, it was typical Jameis being Jameis.

For Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, the expectations are huge this year and a big focus is on him, the face of the franchise.

Since being selected as the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston already has thrown for 8,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His numbers are improvements from his rookie to second season.

But there’s more to Winston than just that. For any past moments of immaturity, he’s countered it with leadership that has been noted by both teammates and coaches – and even by outsiders who see him on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Not many can come in and lead the way Winston has now, still just 23 years old.

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But during Tampa Bay’s 12-8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason action Thursday night made a bad mistake. With the Buccaneers facing third-and-goal on the Jaguars’ 7-yard line, Winston threw up a wild pass that was intercepted in the end zone. Interceptions happen, but the throw was unwarranted as he was helplessly being taken down for a sack – the latter of which the officials determined was the actual result of the play.

Nevertheless, Winston’s decision wasn’t a good one, and coach Dirk Koetter once again lit in to him – just as he has in the past. But with Winston, he seems to feed off the criticism, the coaching as if he’s so mentally tough that he enjoys it. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was constantly screaming at Winston, but unlike many other quarterbacks, he could take it.

For the Buccaneers, it’s about the Super Bowl this year as a potential dark horse contender. They’ve added a dynamic rookie tight end in O.J. Howard and a proven wide receiver in DeSean Jackson to complement Mike Evans. Last season, Tampa Bay just barely missed out on the playoffs at 9-7 but in what may be the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC South, that was only just the beginning for the team.

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Currently, there are only seven quarterbacks in the NFL with a Super Bowl ring – Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. So far, only Flacco and Wilson aren’t locks for the Hall of Fame, though both could get there.

The point is that you’re more than likely not winning it all without a great quarterback. Winston has what it takes to be that. He has the size, skills and surely the leadership now, too. He’s not without his mistakes, as he does need to cut down on his interceptions, but that’s often the byproduct of a young quarterback getting his feet wet in the NFL.

Bottom line: Winston is only going to get better. So does that mean the Buccaneers win it all this year? No. But is there a quarterback right now who you would rather have over the next 10-plus years to lead your franchise and win one than Winston? There may be some others who you would choose, but the list won’t be long.

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(You can follow Rick Ballou on Twitter @Ballou1010xl)

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