For Bucs QB Winston, ‘game manager’ not a bad thing Jameis Winston breaks past Saints defensive end Bobby Richardson for a touchdown in New Orleans. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE By Roy Cummings | Tribune StaffPublished: September 21, 2015 at 08:00 PMTAMPA — Some quarterbacks would rather throw an interception or take a sack than be labeled a game manager.Not Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.At this early stage of his career, a game manager is precisely what the first pick in the 2015 draft is striving to be.“I just want to be a good game manager and put our team in the best possible situation to win,’’ Winston said Sunday after collecting his first NFL victory in his second start, a 26-19 win in New Orleans.Well, that’s precisely what “game managers’’ tend to do, even though the label is rarely considered a compliment.“I think every good quarterback should be a good game manager,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “That’s why when he’s played 15 years for us here and you ask him that question, I’d like him to say, ‘I’m really managing the game well as a quarterback.’“Because that’s a good thing.’’While the approach is generally a safe one, it’s also proven to be rather effective.Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been described as a game manager, yet his Seahawks won the Super Bowl two seasons ago and came within a play of winning another last season. Winston might never reach the level Wilson has achieved, but after only two games he is making strides.His performance Sunday is proof, Smith said.After a rocky debut against the Titans, Winston bounced back strong, completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown. But more importantly, he avoided throwing the kind of crippling interceptions that sunk the Bucs on opening day.In other words, he managed the game efficiently.“I’d say he managed it fairly well,’’ Smith said Monday. “And not just fairly well. He protected the football. He made good decisions. And when he needed to be a drop-back quarterback and pass the ball downfield, that’s what he did.’’One drive stood out, Smith said.It was the six-play, 63-yard drive Winston engineered at the end of the first half, which culminated with Winston throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass over the heads of two defenders and into the hands of receiver Vincent Jackson.The Bucs took a 10-7 lead on that score, despite twice being pushed back by false start penalties, including one on the drive’s second play that left the Bucs facing third-and-16 from their 31-yard line. That’s when Winston first showed the skills most game managers can only dream of possessing, throwing a strike down the middle of the field to Jackson for a 17-yard gain that kept the drive alive.Asked Monday which of the two critical throws to Jackson he liked most, Smith had a hard time choosing before settling on the one that gave the Bucs the biggest payoff.“That third-and-16 throw was good, but the touchdown pass – it was just a small window, and he had to release it at a certain time, and it was good coverage on their part,’’ Smith said. “It was a great throw. It might have been Jameis’ best throw on record here, I’d say.”Winston gave all the credit for that throw to Jackson, of course. But the credit for keeping the Bucs in the lead on a day when it slowly evaporated to nearly nothing was given largely to Winston. And not just because of the way he threw the ball.For a second straight week, Winston showed the ability to get out of trouble in the pocket and extend plays that appeared to be going nowhere. Though one of those attempts resulted in a lost fumble midway through the fourth quarter, more often than not they resulted in gains that extended drives or produced points.And that, Smith said, is a big part of successful game management.“His speed is talked about an awful lot,’’ said Smith, actually refering to the lack of speed Winston displayed in running the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. “But what a quarterback needs to do when he needs to run and be mobile in the pocket, he did that.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @RCummingsTBO
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