Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is trying to instill in his teammates a winning mentality – one they have the option to accept or decline but the decision to “hate losing” and “love winning” has to be made as a team.
“It’s an easy choice,” Winston said energetically at his press conference last Saturday. “It’s a choice – you have to want to win. As a team, we have to make that choice together.”
Winston made it clear that his message is not meant to single any players out. It’s to stress that a certain attitude has to trickle down from a couple players, in particular the quarterback, down to the entire team. In other words, everyone needs to get on the “same page.”
“I would never call out my teammates and say guys need to start hating to lose,” Winston said. “I’m not saying that just because I want to win, it means someone wants or doesn’t want to win. I’m saying that all of us have to be together and on the same page. If we’re on the same page and we have to same focus, we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
“When you have people competing and you see that your leaders are competing, (it’s contagious). That’s why I’m the one that says we have to have that winning mentality because I’ve got to be the one to start off.
“My body language has to remain consistent. I have to be that image that they look at, even if they’re looking down, (and then look at me and say) ‘Oh, Jameis still wants to win, shoot, we want to win too.’”
And it’s not just him setting the tone. Winston pointed to the defensive side of the ball, namely the competitive attitude brought by veterans along the defensive line. On a question about what Robert Ayers brings to the team, Winston quickly responded, “passion,” before relating it back to the idea of an entire team having a “winning mentality.” Ayers, Winston said, is a player who knows what it takes and is igniting the fire for the defense.
“You can tell, as a veteran, he’s brought that every-single-day-I’m-going-full-speed-mentality to that defensive side of the ball,” Winston said. “You see Robert Ayers go out there and make what would be called a sack on me – but they let us throw – and it sparks a competitive atmosphere.
“(Because) then you see Gerald’s like, ‘Man I’m going to get a sack because I’m not going to let Robert Ayers out-do me when I’m the best player on the team.’ And then Gerald goes out there and makes two plays in a row. And then Clinton McDonald is like, ‘Hold on now, everyone else makes plays so I have to make me a play.’ That’s what Robert Ayers brings to this team and that goes back to that winning-mentality.”
Considering that he’s only won six games in his career, there will be some critics who advise Winston to temper his enthusiasm and focus on leading his team to a few more victories before asking them to adopt his mindset. But he has a proven track record for winning in college, where he led Florida State to a National Championship victory and an overall record of 26-1 over two seasons.
And just like in Tampa bay, it took time in Tallahassee.
“We’re still building it (in Tampa),” Winston said. “Even at Florida State it was a process. Times like this – we’re at camp … Last year I couldn’t really be that (leader). At the end of the day I was trying to learn what I needed to learn to have the opportunity to lead this team to some wins.”
Similar to his rookie year in 2015, Winston used his red-shirt year in 2012 to observe the veterans and get to know his teammates. When his time came to start they flipped the switch as a team and became perennial winners.
There are comparisons to be made between then and now as Winston enters his second season as a pro. With a better handle on his team and his own job, the Bucs quarterback sees a similar future in Tampa to one he’s experienced in the past.
“Since I’m more familiar, it’s time for everybody to get everybody involved and get that same mentality so we can win some football games here,” Winston said. “If you do everything you need to do to win a football game – not have turnovers, not have penalties – and even if that stuff happens, if you have team chemistry you can overcome that.”
And that chemistry, he said, is what propelled an often-trailing FSU team to overcome deficits and win so many games. In 2014 the Seminoles seemed to be playing with fire throughout the season – seven wins by a TD or less – but strong team chemistry and a winning mentality pushed them over the edge in the fourth quarter time and again.
Winston expects the same for the Bucs.
“You can overcome adversity because at the end of the day that team is still like, ‘There’s no reason why we should lose here. We still have that winning mentality, so we’re never down.’
“Even if you’re down 42-0, you have to have that mentality like, ‘We’re not losing this game. We’re going to break an NFL record and come back to win this football game.’ That’s just how it is. That’s why I said you have to hate to lose and love to win.”