Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Jameis Winston: He’s aiming to be elite
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp a little early Thursday, and one player wasn’t too happy about it — quarterback Jameis Winston. Head coach Dirk Koetter said that if both Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo each made four in a row — which they did — they could call it a day.
Teammates celebrated and everyone retreated to an ice cream truck adjacent to the practice field. Winston eventually did too (he got watermelon and green apple shaved ice), amid a swarm of fans wanting his autograph. But the former first overall draft pick wanted to get more work in.
“Jameis [was] the one guy in the huddle who wanted to keep going,” Koetter said, emphasizing the difference between Winston in 2015 and now, is that he knows he can play in this league.
“He knows he can be a successful player,” Koetter said. “Jameis — no one has higher expectations for his performance than he does. I mean, he’s aiming to be elite, not just one of 32. And because he has such high expectations, and we have high expectations, it’s a never-ending process. We’re hard on Jameis and he’s hard on himself. Always improving, but not where it needs to be.”
Winston led Florida State to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, a national championship and he won a Heisman Trophy. He also heard his name called first in the 2015 NFL draft. He wasn’t short on confidence heading into the league. But he still had to prove himself.
“When you come into the league as a rookie, you had great success in college but you’re playing with grown men now,” Koetter said. “There’s just a lot more thrown at you. The disguise is so much different, the way the defense looks. He’s been through 32 NFL starts. Experience is the best teacher, we’ve talked about this before. The Tom Bradys and Matt Ryans of the world have got a lot of reps on Jameis.”
The focus up until this point has been protecting the football, and it will always be for Winston. He threw 28 interceptions in two seasons in college and 33 in his first two in the NFL, tied for third most in the league. He had 16 fumbles and lost eight of them during that span.
He also led the Bucs to a 9-7 record last year, their first winning season since 2010, and just narrowly missed the playoffs. That raised the expectations and upped the ante. The footwork is becoming more refined, the ball is getting out quicker and the delivery is becoming tighter. He’s throwing a more catchable ball. And he’s continuing to raise the bar for his teammates.
“He’s always been a leader, but the way he’s leading, he’s taken it up a notch,” said left tackle Donovan Smith. “He is the hardest-working guy I know. Anytime you get here at 5:45 in the morning, he’s already here. It’s like you can’t beat him to the building. The work he puts in is just tremendous and it only benefits us at the end of the day.”
The Bucs signed DeSean Jackson, one of the top wideouts in free agency and fastest players in the league, to pair with big-bodied Pro Bowler Mike Evans. They also drafted tight end O.J. Howard, whom Winston spent a lot of time in minicamp with working on back-shoulder fades. They also drafted wide receiver Chris Godwin, who has been one of the most consistent performers this offseason and like Evans, really competes for the ball.
The goal isn’t merely to just compete anymore or to avoid making mistakes — not with those types of weapons and Winston’s sheer knack for making plays, or the fact that they’ve beaten the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons three out of the past four times they’ve squared off.
“The goal is to win Super Bowls here,” Winston said. “If that’s not the goal for everyone in the building, you don’t really need to be here.
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