If you have paid attention to the career of Jameis Winston, you know it hasn’t been easy.
His issues with turnovers, poor (at times) decision-making, and a NFL suspension have the Bucs’ all-time leader in passing touchdowns facing a big year in 2019.
With the hiring of Bruce Arians, many thought it would get easier for Winston, considering how Arians has been dubbed the “quarterback whisperer” during his career in the NFL. A new system, a new staff, and newly instilled confidence would be the main factors in helping Winston reach the next level.
But according to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, nothing is going to be easy for Winston, and that’s a good thing. He knows that nothing will ever get easier for Winston and once that is realized and is instilled, it will lead to better play, making the former first-overall pick into the quarterback this staff knows that he can become.
“On every play, I’m trying to make it as hard as possible for him. I don’t ever want him to have reps where it’s easy and he thinks he knows exactly where he needs to go with the ball and make that throw,” Leftwich said. “I’m always trying to put him in position where he has to do something or where he has to see something before he’s able to make the play.”
“(I want) constant pressure on the quarterback position, on every snap, trying to make sure they make the right decision on every snap.”
There’s a lot to be said for a coaching staff that bucks up to adversity. When our limits are stressed to the max we find out who we really are as people. It’s not much different on the football field. When the pressure gets dialed up, it’s simple: you either fly or fail.
And Winston is not one to back down from the pressure. He’s always been confident, prepared, and willing to take on any type of leadership role. Leftwich sees that, but wants more from his quarterback.
When it comes to making the right decision, that’s what Leftwich looks for the most. “See, it’s not always about a money throw for me, it’s a money decision, and that’s what the position is all about. Everyone wants to see the big, 40-yard post and trust me, that’s coming. That’s there.”
“But that’s not what we’re going to ask Jameis to do every snap. What we’re going to ask him to do is put us in the right position and make the right decision. Put us in the right place to be successful in this play.”
The depth that Leftwich is willing to dive into in order to help Winston is admirable and the detail in his responses reflect a coach that knows what needs to be done.
And it’s beginning to show in camp.
Winston found running back Andre Ellington on a quick, four-yard dump pass that allowed Ellington to scamper into the end zone with little resistance for a touchdown. Leftwich came over and emphatically tapped Winston on the helmet after the play, obviously excited that the work that has been put in throughout the offense is starting to show through.
“That play, he probably only throw a four-yard pass, right? But that was the right decision, because that’s what we’re asking him to do.”
It’s also nice to have a coach who played the position with success in the NFL. Leftwich continued, “That’s hard for us to do as quarterbacks, right? You know, we want to throw the ball down the field. It’s hard for us to run guys down the field then look down and take that four-yard pass. But when he does make that right decision, he gets to come in, watch the tape, and he gets to see Andre Ellington running into the end zone.”
“Those are the type of reps, that if we can get him to make those decisions, that is huge. That ball was supposed to go right there, so the fact that it went right there is huge. That was the best play of the day. That four-yard pass was the best decision and the best play that he made during camp that day.”
Leftwich’s crosshairs aren’t fixed solely on Winston, though. It’s on the entire offense. When asked about the receiving corps, he heaped praise on them, calling the group “exceptional”.
But that doesn’t mean he’s giving them any slack, either.
“We are trying to this as difficult for the quarterback and the receivers as possible,” he adamantly stated at the podium. “And in doing that - the way these guys are responding - it’s a breath of fresh air to see these guys respond and see the plays that we’re making, the plays that we should be making, the plays we are capable of making or we didn’t make, but will begin to make.”
“It’s exciting to see that we’re all on the same page. We’re seeing it collectively as a whole. That’s what we want. We want everyone in the huddle to see it as a whole and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
The same goes for the rest of the offense. It’s probably fair to say this team didn’t know how to handle adversity under the last couple of coaching regimes and eight losing seasons over the past decade speaks to that.
“A lot of the time we’re trying to put these guys in the worst situation, to be honest with you, especially early in camp so they know how to respond,” Leftwich said during Tuesday’s media availability when asked about how practicing against Todd Bowles’ defense benefits the offense. “Once they know how to respond to the danger of what can happen to a protection, to a passing route – once they know how to handle all of that - they’ll be fine going against any regular, old coverage.”
“So, we’re putting these guys into tough situations, especially early on. These guys will be fine, they’re responding well to it.”
While it’s not very reasonable - or fair - to expect an instant turnaround, as long as progress is made it should make the Buccaneers a better team and Leftwich knows this.
“It’s going to be those types of decisions in those types of situations that will make us really consistent and a really good football team,” he said back in reference to the Ellington play.
When the pressure gets dialed up, we find out who really are as people.
It’s about time for the Bucs to fly.