FAB 2. Less Talk, More Action From Winston
I’ve been waiting for weeks to write this, waiting for the perfect moment. Boy, did it arrive last Sunday in New Orleans before the Saints beat down the Buccaneers, 30-10.
When a wide-eyed Jameis Winston licked his fingers and told everyone he was going to “eat a W tonight” in a pre-game huddle prior to the Saints game I knew that he had gone off the rails. The Bucs quarterback has been giving pre-game speeches all season, even dating back to last year.
Yet on Sunday, Winston finally jumped the shark.
For those of you millennials who never got the chance to watch the TV show Happy Days, the phrase “jump the shark” refers to a landmark moment that was born from the episode when Fonzie was waterskiing in his leather jacket (and shorts, of course) and literally jumps over a shark, which was ridiculous. The phrase means when a show has lost its luster and desperately tries to regain it.
Winston’s pre-game speeches have lost their luster, and on Sunday in New Orleans he seemed desperate for some new material. The whole “eat some W’s” speech fell flat with his teammates, some of whom had shocked or blank faces while Winston was speaking.
Winston can still be a leader – the Bucs’ best leader – by saying less and doing more.
How about no more pre-game speeches?
This isn’t Pop Warner anymore, or high school. Heck, this isn’t Florida State. This is the NFL, and right now the 2-6 Bucs need fewer words and more action from Winston and everybody else.
With a few weeks off to rest his shoulder, Winston should step back and re-evaluate everything from his leadership style to the way he plays quarterback. Whatever he was doing this year wasn’t enough. Or perhaps it was too much?
Look around the league at the prominent quarterbacks. Tell me which ones give rah-rah speeches on the field before games?
Does New England’s Tom Brady do it?
Do you see Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers deliver fiery pre-game pep talks on the field?
How about some of the younger quarterbacks having early success in their careers?
Does Dak Prescott do this in Dallas? How about Carson Wentz in Philadelphia? Does Jared Goff act like Winston in Los Angeles before a game?
Even when Tampa Bay was on Hard Knocks, backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was saying that Winston’s pre-game chant with the quarterbacks in the locker room was too long and wordy.
If you think what I’m talking about is ridiculous and doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you that it’s the small details that matter in football. They add up, and this 2-6 Bucs squad doesn’t pay attention to details.
If second-year linebacker Devante Bond holds his block a split second more on Sunday, Bryan Anger’s punt wouldn’t have been blocked and returned for a touchdown.
For all of his faults, Greg Schiano’s “toes on the line” approach was right on. If your toes are over the line of scrimmage it’s offsides and you just cost your team five yards. Do that on third-and-4 in a game and you just gave your opponent a free first down.
Winston’s pre-game speeches are always flowery and positive because that’s the kind of guy he is. He’s being true to himself and I can appreciate that. But honestly, if I’m a football player I’d rather hear a pre-game speech that consists of “Let’s beat these *&[email protected]#%^ and kick their %#$!”
That’s what Hardy Nickerson and Warren Sapp would say back in the day.
That’s what I would expect Kwon Alexander, who has a harder edge than Winston, to say.
Winston says he studies Brady a lot. He even met Brady before the Bucs vs. Patriots game last month and had the perfect opportunity to study how he prepares for a game. Did Winston pay attention?
“To me, he’s normal, calm, just waiting to get to business,” former New England running back Kevin Faulk said.
After Brady comes out to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” at Gillette Stadium he pumps his fist up to get the crowd going and then he gets into the zone.
“He’s extremely focused, and he gets us focused,” Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said. “He realizes the task at hand, gets his mind right and gets the job done.”
Wouldn’t you like to see Winston come out extremely focused rather than hyped up? Maybe a more calm, focused Winston would translate into more productivity in first quarters for the Bucs points-wise.
How many times has Winston come out too hyped for a big prime-time game and been cold and inaccurate to start the game? Let’s review:
2015: 31-23 Loss at St. Louis on TNF
Winston: 29-of-50 for 363 yards (58 percent) with 2 TDs, 1 INT
First Half: 6-of-12 (50 percent) for 49 yards
2016: 17-14 Win at Carolina on MNF
Winston: 18-of-30 for 219 yards (60 percent) with 1 TD, no INTs
First Half: 9-of-14 (64 percent) for 85 yards
2016: 43-28 Loss vs. Atlanta on TNF
Winston: 23-of-37 for 261 yards (62.2 percent) with 3 TDs, no INTs
First Half: 13-of-19 (68 percent) for 136 2 TDs
2016: 26-20 Loss at Dallas on SNF
Winston: 17-of-35 for 247 yards (48.6 percent) with 2 TDs, no INTs
First Half: 6-of-12 (50 percent) for 81 yards, one INT
2017: 19-14 Loss vs. New England
Winston: 26-of-46 for 334 yards (56.5 percent) with 1 TD, no INTs
First Half: 8-of-16 (50 percent) for 71 yards
Winston even praised Brady’s calm, cool and collected ways prior to the Bucs vs. Patriots game earlier this year.
“He has won more Super Bowls than [any other quarterbacks], so to me, that is the most important part,” Winston said. “His ability to protect the football and take advantage of those opportunities when they are given to him is impeccable. Just studying him, just seeing how calm he is [and] how precise he is, is very impressive.”
So maybe Winston should take a page out of Brady’s playbook and settle down before the game and settle into the game plan in the first quarter.
This isn’t Florida State going into Death Valley to play Clemson with a bunch of 19-year old true freshman who are nervous or scared out of their minds. This is a bunch of grown men and well-paid professionals.
Most football players are hyped up and ready to go before the game because they only have 16 opportunities to play in the NFL regular season schedule. Winston should save the pep talks for the sidelines when your team is down 9-0 early and needs to rally.
Remember when Donovan Smith said that the Bucs weren’t ready to play against the Panthers? I recall that Winston gave a fiery pre-game speech before that game, too.
Did it work? Was it effective?
After losing 17-3 and having just one play inside Carolina’s red zone all day, that should tell you – and Winston – something right there.
For the first time in his young NFL career Winston will watch a Bucs game from the sideline this Sunday. I would love to see a more calm and focused, more professional Winston change up his pre-game routine so when he returns to the field – whether it’s this year or next year – he’s prepared for more action and less talk.
The Bucs could use it.