After airing Jameis Winston’s throwing session at Florida State’s pro day on Tuesday, NFL Network debuted the “Game Changers” series with former NFL coach and current analyst Steve Mariucci sitting down with Winston for an interview and working with him on the field. The 30-minute show offered a revealing look at Winston’s personality, skill set and candidness.

Mariucci asked Winston about how he explained some of his off-field incidents to NFL teams, including Tampa Bay, which has the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and is considering taking the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.

“I was just being a college kid,” Winston said about his off-field issues. “It’s about gaining their trust. Give me a chance. Let my actions speak from now on. I can’t go back and change what I did.

“I had to explain a few of those incidents. I could just be as real as I could possibly be. Some people can make up their mind about you in three seconds. Some people can hear you out. At the end of the day, I’m not reminiscing about those incidents. I’m moving forward.”

Winston acknowledged meeting with head coach Lovie Smith and the Bucs owners, the Glazer family shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I believe it was an eye-opening process for everyone involved in Tampa Bay because they thought it was probably going to be scripted,” Winston said. “Like I would come in with some scripted words or try to tell a story. I just came in as myself and I plan on being myself – but a more mature self, a better version of me. This is a privilege. Just getting an opportunity to play in the NFL is a privilege.”

Mariucci asked Winston if he wanted to be drafted by the Buccaneers, and how he would feel if he wasn’t.WINSTONMARIUCCI2

“I would love for that to happen,” Winston said, stating his preference to play for the Bucs. “I wouldn’t be mad, but I would be kind of hurt that it’s not Tampa. I’m hometown … but life goes on.”

Mariucci asked if Winston was the best quarterback in the draft.

“I think so – I know so,” Winston said.

Winston was asked if he was better than Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“It’s not just one person that I am trying to be better than,” Winston said. “I’m trying to be better than myself. I’m pushing myself to a limit that I know no one else can compete with, especially on this college level.”

Mariucci said that not a lot of top quarterbacks elect to throw at the Combine, but Winston did, opting to compete against Mariota, who is also vying to be the first quarterback – and player – drafted on April 30.

“I’m a competitor,” Winston said. “Any chance that we get to play football – the game that we love – I’m down for it. I’m not worried about a risk. I’m playing football. I didn’t care about any of that. When I go to a football field I don’t go thinking the worst. I go thinking the best. That was a Super Bowl for me.”

Mariucci then peppered Winston with some word association questions during the episode.

When asked about FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, Winston called him, “My football daddy.”

When referencing Peyton Manning, Winston said, “Great quarterback.”

Winston hesitated when describing Johnny Manziel, finally saying, “Hollywood on the football field” before calling Deion Sanders “Primetime.”

When it came to Mariota, Winston said, “Quite producer. Very quiet, but he produces.”

Mariucci asked him which current NFL quarterback Winston compares himself to.

“Right now the closest comparison would be Andrew Luck,” Winston said. “We both have a lot of similarities in our game. He’s aggressive, and I’m aggressive. He’s a competitor. I’ve seen him take some hits. I’ve seen him take some licks and he gets back up and starts balling.

“We take chances, and sometimes the chances can be bad. And sometimes the chances make people say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe that happened.’”

Several NFL Network analysts offered up their quick opinions of Winston during the “Game Changers” episode.

“If I need a quarterback, he is perhaps the best quarterback that we’ve seen since Andrew Luck,” LaDainian Tomlinson said.

Daniel Jeremiah said he didn’t think Winston was the best player in the draft, but believes he’s the best quarterback.

Heath Evans said that despite the fact that Winston is talented, he’s not touching him with the first pick in the draft due to off-field concerns.

“He’s proven he can win football games in adversity coming from behind in the second half,” said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly.

“If I’m Tampa Bay I take Jameis Winston number one overall as my new starting quarterback,” Charles Davis said. “I need offense to keep up with Atlanta New Orleans and Carolina in my own division.”

“He’s a gifted player and it doesn’t take a whole lot of tape to see that,” Mike Mayock said. “He’s the prototype with a big arm – good enough athlete. What I like is that he anticipates throwing the ball open, which is rare in college football today. The caveat is the off-field concerns. To me, he’s a top-5 pick and maybe the number one pick in the draft.”

Mariucci and Winston watched several of his best plays together, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to beat Auburn and win the BCS Championship as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

“There it is, R tight, 10-46 max, Z post,” Winston said. “I threw it in a spot where only he could get it. That’s a pretty good spot, but it was kind of behind him. Me and KB spent more time on that play over the summer than any route ever. It won us a national championship.”

Winston shared how excited he is to be drafted on the NFL Network special.

“When Mr. Goodell calls my name at the draft it’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Winston said. “My mom and everybody are going to be screaming. It’s going to be an important day. I’m going to be wearing a nice suit no matter where I am because you have to look good on draft day.”

Mariucci was clearly enamored with Winston’s ability and personality and concluded the episode with this final thought.

“He’s as impressive on the board as he is on the field,” Mariucci said. “After spending some time with Jameis Winston here’s what I can tell you. He’s extremely confident and he’s determined to be great. Jameis Winston is the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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seat26
seat26
6 years ago

I was not big on him, but I am coming around to accepting that he may be our best option with the #1. It will only work if we can get the OL working. If they don’t get some players here, Winston will spend his rookie year on his backside a lot.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
6 years ago

That is exactly what you want to hear. This guy wants to play for us. Lock it up guys!

e
e
6 years ago

I guess I was waiting for a PR April Fools Day report about Winston this morning like he has decided to pursue a baseball career or something… e

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

I’m sold with Winston as our QB; the question is, are the Bucs?

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

He sounds like a 10 year old. Mature–NOT

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
6 years ago

Here’s EEB’s take on the whole thing: Winston will be our pick and he’ll be fine (which sadly makes him the best QB we’ve ever had). He’s not good enough to put us on his back and win (i.e., he’s no Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Andrew Luck – despite his comparison) but he’s good enough to win if we surround him with talent (like Russell Wilson, Brad Johnson were). He’s going to be awful to passable next year, as will the Bucs…our ceiling is probably 6 wins, and more likely we’ll win 3 or 4. That performance is… Read more »

buclover1988
buclover1988
Reply to  EastEndBoy
6 years ago

EEB, you lost me once you said he can’t put a team on his back and win. He did that time and time again at fsu. Hence why he only lost one game his whole career. I would ‘re evaluate your take on Winston as you are stating one of his biggest strength as a weakness.

Roland
Roland
Reply to  buclover1988
6 years ago

He didn’t put the team on his back to win. He most often played up to the talent around him in the huddle, because in the first half of those games he stunk up the joint. Winston’s picks were most often the reason the Noles where behind in the first place.

savinlife4alivin13
savinlife4alivin13
6 years ago

I have to say I’m skeptical! I really thought Winston and his camp would blow this pro day out of the water cause he did so well at the combine. It didn’t happen. He came on strong at the end but that was his strengths. Really thought he would be better on the move than he was. Better than Freeman I’d have to say. Thought he over thought the script and blow it. I watched from beginning to the end. All I know is I came into the combine not wanting Tampa to draft Winston. After I changed my mind… Read more »

cremdonado
cremdonado
6 years ago

“Jameis Winston is the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft.”~This is kind of a non statement~its not an endorsement but an observation. Winston is viewed to be the fifth best player in the draft but the best at the QB position~even with the questions off the field…Mariota is squeaky clean and has so many pluses BUT still isnt considered the best QB. Williams is starting to look better and better to me~he is a beast and considered to be THE BEST player in the draft(so was Clowney on the cautionary tip) and doesnt come with the off the field… Read more »

surferdudes
surferdudes
6 years ago

Let’s see we locked up McCoy,pro bowl D tackle, signed Melton, have McDonald, and Spence. At QB we have Glennon. Yet some of you want to pass on Winston, to draft someone who plays McCoys spot as our #1 pick in Williams? Riiight.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  surferdudes
6 years ago

Yeah I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks that. Let’s draft a player on a position of depth, one of the few we have by the way. The pick is going to be Winston, there is no doubt in my mind watching the interaction between lovie and his family yesterday. And who cares if he is a little off while throwing on the run during his pro day, it just shows he’s willing to do it, even though he isn’t great at it. Most qb’s wouldn’t have even attempted those throws so not to look bad. This is… Read more »

HOFer13
HOFer13
Reply to  surferdudes
6 years ago

We don’t have a good a DE. The DL is the heart and soul of the Tampa 2. If we don’t grab Williams or Fowler, after passing on Hardy, I will be shocked. I’m happier with our current QB position than the DL and OL. Winston isn’t Luck, so I’m fine passing, not to mention if this rape issue pops back up. Good, sound decisions need to be made in our current state.

cremdonado
cremdonado
6 years ago

@surferdudes~winston is likely our pick and Im cool with that(i like the kid,dont get me wrong) as long as the rest of our picks go to positions of need.We lack a pass rush and a QB that can score is great but a defense that cant stop anyone negates that… I guess is what im saying is that even with grabbing Winston,our team is far from out of the woods…The question then becomes can we keep Jaboo developing and on task even knowing that his first couple years with our squad will be character growing years and likely not full… Read more »

surferdudes
surferdudes
6 years ago

It doesn’t appear to me you win with average QB play. Tom Brady has another ring, Mr Average. I think Buc fans who want to pass on Winston, deep down don’t want the Bucs to succeed. They’d rather have the Bucs to pick on rather then root for. The new CBA makes it O.K. to draft a QB #1. If he turns out well, you have him on the cheap four years like Wilson. Winston to Evans, it’s going to be great, we’re going to win. If you don’t believe it, or like it, please cry someplace else. We no… Read more »

Roland
Roland
Reply to  surferdudes
6 years ago

Winston does not have a high ceiling according to most scouts. But probably will be a solid QB. Think Byron Leftwich but a little better at throwing TDs and picks.
Mariota has a 1 in 3 shot to be an Aaron Rodgers clone in 3 years…

macabee
macabee
6 years ago

Well the process continues, but the pundits think it’s all over in favor of Winston. Rick Stroud says “It’s a wrap, go out and buy your jersey”. Pat Yasinskas as well as other local analyst believe the decision has been made. Go to the Bucs website and it’s painted like an Indy race car with Winston pics and videos. Not anything similar for Mariota’s pro day. Lovie did not even bother to attend. Yesterday, Jason licht was so effusive when talking about Winston’s pro day he could barely talk for smiling from ear to ear! This ESPN Insider doesn’t think… Read more »

Buctebow
Buctebow
6 years ago

The Bucs defense of old had Sapp, Brooks, Barber, Lynch, Rice…5 great players, plus other cast members like Quarles that were superb in that defense. Right now we have two, McCoy and David and that is without the supporting cast to this point. I don’t think we will have a dominating defense for a while no matter what we do, so we need to balance it with more offense than we had back then, thus a franchise QB is a requirement to have success. Yes the offense will not improve that much immediately, as the Oline has to be revamped,… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Buctebow
6 years ago

I’m glad someone said it Buctebow. Your post is exactly what went through my mind when someone conjured the thought of winning with Glennon and our defense as if it is comparable to our 2002 version.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
6 years ago

Jameis is the pick, not sure what everyone else is seeing but this race is over. The Bucs are paying Mariota the respect he deserves by having him in for a visit but Lovie not attending his Pro Day told me everything I needed to know esp considering he was front and center for Jameis’ pro day. When talking about Mariota Lovie said he will be a good QB, thats not a ringing endorsement for a guy you plan on taking #1. Drafting WIlliams is nothing short of idiotic considering its one of the few positions where we have legit… Read more »

KINDERRT
KINDERRT
6 years ago

Have not purchased a Jersey since I purchased a Allstott Jersey back in the day when they dumped Bucco Bruce. If they pick Winston I’ll try and be the first one on line for a Jersey. Please pick a different number, like 3, the same as the great Bambino! Different sport but hopefully the same results!

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

Let’s be realistic about the Bucs choices. Both QBs have a 50 50 chance to succeed. Whether its not playing in a “NFL” system or having the maturity level of a 10 year old (as described by NFL executives). Neither QB is a guarantee. Either one selected will fill one position of need and have to play behind a nonexistent offensive line. Smith is expecting last years RG and two fifth round picks to blossom or the Bucs will go to the trash heap looking linemen. Either QB is going to suffer from lack of surrounding talent. Neither is going… Read more »

Dbuc63
Dbuc63
Reply to  Bucmeister
6 years ago

Well stated Bucmeister. What would Bill in New England do? Great teams will think different from the rest that is why they are on top. We are probably going to be like Cleveland unless PR is also helping aid in the biggest smokescreen of all time. I hope to be wrong and will be behind the team but IF we are lucky and Winston is better than average we will still be 4 years away from any sort of playoff contention. We have so many holes to fill yet. I don’t think people really realize how bad our prior drafts… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Dbuc63
6 years ago

Yes we will be a little behind but what you guys keep forgetting is that franchise qbs don’t come along but once every couple of years. And the number one pick rarely happens so we have to jump at that opportunity. If we want to trade back next year and stockpile picks so be it, but I think most of you underestimate our team. We lost by one score or less 7 times. You think winston isn’t good for an extra score a game , because I sure do. And with the easiest schedule in the nfl and two big… Read more »

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
Reply to  cgmaster27
6 years ago

You don’t believe an offensive line would not of made a difference. Better run blocking, better pass protection, less sacks and negative plays and less penalties. Even with McCowan and Glennon with an OL we would have won more games. No OL no QB.

DCGoth
DCGoth
Reply to  Bucmeister
6 years ago

While a better O Line could help, I’m still in agreement with what is being kicked around on the NFL Network. Pick a QB and L&L can buy time to allow him to develop; however, pick some other position, and if JW or MM are productive elsewhere, L&L are unemployed if the go below .500. The 2016 draft would be under differenct coach & GM.

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

CG nothing guarantees Winston is a franchise QB. He might be but then again he could be just average. As far as franchise QBs coming around every year, almost every year some hotshot is deemed a franchise QB. Next year it is Cook from Mich. Also look at our OL, now look at how much better Dallas was both offensively AND defensively once they drafted and developed their OL. Arguably Romo was not great until he got an OL. As great as you think Winston is, he will not be behind our OL. Drafting one OL a year it will… Read more »

Buctebow
Buctebow
Reply to  Bucmeister
6 years ago

And nothing guarantees that if the Bucs trade down for 6-8 additional picks that they hit on a single one of them. We need a franchise QB, we are finally in the position to get one, we have to take the chance now, as we won’t get another chance anytime in the near future.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Bucmeister
6 years ago

The thing is now a days, not even offensive lineman are guaranteed. The last three selected first have al struggled to even stay on the field. I’m not saying winston is a guarantee, but you never pass in a chance to get a franchise qb when you don’t have one period. Anyone can be great behind a great offensive line sure, but there is no such thing as a guarantee at any position, even lineman.

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

We need a QB and he’s the best one in the draft. Doesn’t make any difference whether 3-4 players are ahead of him; none of them play QB. So far we have made zero effort to strengthen the QB position. We have no other choice but to draft Winston and hope in 2-3 years we all will be smiling.

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

Horse, we have made zero effort to strengthen the OL and we need a minimum of two OL and probably more. We have a QB, we don’t have an OL. We strengthened our defense and have a new punter, I guess punting is our offence.

georgehicks
georgehicks
6 years ago

I’d think that Jameis Winston could be better than QB Luck from Indy. Come On Tampa selected him. And move forward to see him prove everybody wrong about his off the field Issuses He is a college player who has issuses! Doesn’t every one has Issuses. GO BUCS come on make Tampa fans proud and the stamds feel up. GO BUCS

DCGoth
DCGoth
Reply to  georgehicks
6 years ago

I couild definitely see JW playing as well as Luck; however, maybe not in his first season. I’m still fine with giving him a season or two to acclimate to the NFL.

As far as Luck, I’m still not sold on him being as good as the top five QBs in the NFL. One of the biggest reasons the Dolts make the playoffs each year is from being in a division with Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee; also known as six guaranteed wins each year. (At least until one of those teams begin to play better each Sunday.)

Roland
Roland
Reply to  DCGoth
6 years ago

Winston may throw only as many picks as Luck, but he doesn’t have near the arm strength or athletic ability that Luck has. Although as Winston makes bad reads his long windup and lack of elite arm strength probably will consistently have him among or leading the league in INTs.

cremdonado
cremdonado
6 years ago

Bears released their center(garza) who also played guard~Lovie guy,old(36) but might get added due to our blaring need and the Lovie connection…

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

Crem-Garza is another of the over-the-hill off the trash heap Smith likes. And that is supposed to fix the OL until some of his 5th thru 7th round OL picks develop. But build the defense and maintain his defensive genius status.

bucfan47
bucfan47
6 years ago

There are multiple outlets that state his PRO-DAY was average at best. Just as I feared, bad organizations fall in love with the wrong players. I called the signing of Josh Freeman back when Raheem Morris “Who they should have never hired” actually persuaded Dominik to trade up “Can you honestly still believe they did that?” for Freeman, these guys are going to stay put and draft Winston #1 and I am 100% convinced this guy will never amount to anything above being just “OK”. His resume includes being totally immature, something NO NFL team should put up with in… Read more »

Mr. Incredible
Mr. Incredible
6 years ago

I can’t believe i’m saying this but this guy has won me over. I made some dumb mistakes as a kid and i’m glad that didn’t finish me off for life. It seems like the sexual assault thing was a girl who changed her mind and the other stuff was stupid but not evil. He certainly has the IT factor. I’ll be curious to see what kind of suit he wears for the draft. Hopefully it’s more Donovan McNabb than Deion Sanders. I saw let’s roll the dice on this kid’s talent and get behind him. (God, i feel like… Read more »