The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t know exactly what they were getting when they selected Jameis Winston first overall back in 2015.
Sure the team knew that the quarterback could ball out on the field. That was never really a question. The larger issue was his off-field exploits. A crab-leg incident. A sexual assault allegation. An immature on-campus attitude that cost him his reputation nationally.
When Winston arrived to Buccaneers camp as a rookie last summer, he was the toast of the town. The quarterback that might be able to lead this fledgling franchise back to legitimacy.
There was still some concern over his maturity and whether he could act like a leader, both on and off the field.
That gave way to a tremendous rookie season that saw Winston surpass 4,000 passing yards with 28 touchdowns en route to helping Tampa Bay remain in playoff contention into December.
None of this was lost to those who work with Winston on a daily basis. But more than that, his coaches and fellow teammates apparently saw someone that could lead. A young quarterback that might have found a way to reverse the reputation that proceeded him at Florida State.
Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian made sure to note this in a recent lengthy featured piece on NFL.com focusing on Winston.
“He is probably the best natural leader I’ve been around,” Bajakian said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of college-aged guys. He is still a college-aged guy. He understands people. He is very perceptive, very observant; he sees things,” the veteran coach said. “Whether it is body language or things coming up, he sees it and reacts appropriately to it and says, ‘That guy needs a pat on the butt,’ or, ‘That guy needs to be pushed a little more.’ He’s not afraid to do it. The No. 1 thing that makes him a good leader is he wants to win. He knows, to do that, he’s got to get the most out of the guys around him.”
That right there was the crux of the situation leading up to the draft. Could Winston turn his on-field abilities into leadership off the field? It’s readily apparent this has happened.
Now 1-0 on the young season and coming off a four-touchdown performance against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, Winston seems to be maturing on the field. Couple that with his leadership, and it’s a scary proposition for opposing NFC South teams.