NFL

Why Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers Are a Perfect Fit

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Everything about the new marriage between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their new franchise quarterback Jameis Winston just feels right. Winston made it clear very early in the process that he wanted to go No. 1 overall to the Buccaneers, and Tampa Bay wasn’t much more secretive about their affinity for the Florida State quarterback. Whether it was love at first sight or a relationship that took time to mature, it’s clear that Winston and the Buccaneers give each other the best chance to be special.

For Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, Winston is a conventional, drop-back passer that can step in right away and upgrade the position as a rookie. Depending on who you talk to, Winston is either the best quarterback prospect in the past decade not named Andrew Luck, or he’s a bum who’s ready to become the next JaMarcus Russell. The Buccaneers are banking on Winston being closer to Luck than Russell, and that’s more likely the case if we’re being fair.

Frankly, the comparisons to Russell are completely unfair, as Winston has never been linked to drug abuse and Russell was never accused of being one of the brightest football minds coming out of the draft.  Winston’s football acumen and ability make him the right pick for Tampa Bay, and he provides very best chance for the franchise to turn around.

Winston is a perfect fit from an X’s and O’s standpoint as Lovie Smith wants to run the football and work deep downfield on play-action, and Winston is the prototypical drop back passer. Winston gives Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson something they didn’t have a year ago: a quarterback who can throw them open with his anticipation, and get them the ball deep. Winston’s ability to open up the passing game will help the run game as well, because teams won’t be as comfortable cheating in on Winston as they were on Josh McCown and Mike Glennon.

Jameis is far from a perfect quarterback, and while he may be the best prospect in the last decade outside of Luck, he’s certainly not the sure thing that Luck was. Winston knows he has to work to get better for the NFL, and he’s focused on improving in every way possible.

“Right now, I’m so happy,” Winston told Football Insiders at his introductory press conference. “Decision making is just one thing I have to work on. I feel like as a man, as a young man growing up, I must better myself at every single thing. So just one thing, I can’t focus on one. I got to focus on bettering myself in each and every way.”

Winston won the press conference, which he seems to do every time. He answered every question positively, with confidence and the sense of humor that he became known for for during his years at Florida State. Winston also showed how much he wants to be a Buccaneer, as the rookie signal caller and Tampa Bay already have a contract in place.

Some people see Winston as cocky, but his extreme confidence and swagger are things that have been missing from the Buccaneers organization for a long time. On the field and in the locker room, Winston is a perfect fit for the Bucs.

The good news doesn’t end there for Buccaneers fans though, as Tampa Bay provides Winston the absolute best chance to succeed at the NFL level. While there’s some concern about Winston’s maturity, and whether or not he’ll be an issue off of the football field, Tampa Bay has an immediate support system that will make Winston comfortable and have him feeling right at home.

Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Seminoles and Buccaneers great Derrick Brooks has been in Winston’s corner throughout this process, and has been on the record saying he’d love to be a mentor for the rookie quarterback. Brooks is a pillar of the Tampa Bay community, and Winston told Football Insiders he’d like to be just like Brooks off the football field one day.

“It means a lot. … Having someone like Derrick in my life is just like my dad being there,” Winston said when asked of Brooks’ support. “Like my dad holding me up to a high standard, so I have to help him out – I have to represent him as well. It’s a blessing to have a great man like him [mentoring me], especially the way he’s involved in this community. One day I want to be just like him, so that’s definitely a great mentor to start off this process.”

The help won’t end with Brooks though, as Winston will have a great support system in the locker room, including a young man who knows what it’s like to be one of the top selections in the draft in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. McCoy understands what’s expected of the face of the franchise, as well as the pressures of being selected so high.

“It will be a great opportunity for me because I didn’t have that when I came in, so to have a guy come in to get picked as high as our pick is this year, whoever it may be, I’m honestly going to take it upon myself to try to mentor that guy,” McCoy told Football Insiders last week. “Because, like you said, I know the pressures of being picked high and people expect so much from you when you get picked that high.

“But people have to realize these guys are still kids coming in. Just because your age says 21 or 22, I can guarantee you from when I came in when I was 22 to me being 27 now, it’s a completely different person. Those guys need somebody around them to show them how to be a professional. It’s not all about talent, what you do on the field. There’s a lot that goes into being a professional, all the way from balancing out your time to how you practice to how you get your body ready. You’ve got to take care of your body, man. That’s how guys last in this league, that’s how you see guys play 10,12,14 years – they take care of their bodies. So there’s more to being a professional football player than just performing on Sundays.”

If any team, or any fan base, knows how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback, it’s Tampa Bay. Winston is the fifth quarterback the Buccaneers have selected in the first round in their franchise’s history, joining Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer and Josh Freeman. The Bucs have had just one quarterback they drafted go on to become a Pro Bowler for them – and that was Dilfer, who made one Pro Bowl appearance (1998) in his career. Testaverde is the team’s all-time leading passer (with 14,820 yards), but he threw 77 touchdowns versus 112 interceptions during his six-year stint with Tampa Bay. No quarterback that Tampa Bay drafted has been signed to a second contract with the Bucs.

Fans in Tampa are hoping that Winston can become a star and one of the top quarterbacks in franchise history. He is going to have the support of current Buccaneer greats like McCoy, former Buccaneer greats like Brooks, other Buccaneer alumni who have made Tampa their home and from the Tampa Bay community as a whole.

Tampa is a very community-driven city with tons of charity events that feature former professional athletes and other individuals doing good. Winston will surely be heavily involved. That’s great for Tampa Bay, but it’s going to be even better for Jameis and he knows that. It’s easy to believe the young man when he says he wants to follow in Brooks’ footsteps and be a great Buccaneer on and off the field.

On the football field, Winston has what any rookie quarterback would want. Two big-time receivers in Jackson and Evans, and a tight end with tons of potential in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Anyone who saw what Winston did with Nick O’Leary last season can see that Seferian-Jenkins will have plenty of opportunities if he can stay on the field next season.

This marriage is an absolutely perfect fit and it gives the Buccaneers and Winston the very best opportunity to get it right.  It’s an opportunity for a franchise that’s rarely seen winning – or star quarterback performances – to be special.  The guy has been in the building for less than a full weekend and it would already be a shock to see anyone else lined up under center come September.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.