Sept. 25, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Few relationships in sports are more critical than the one between a coach and his quarterback, and at Florida State that dynamic is taken to a whole new level.
As head coach, offensive coordinator and noted quarterback guru, Jimbo Fisher doesn't just want his signal callers to perform well game-by-game; he wants them to be perfect play-by-play. This quest for perfection -- and the pressure that comes with it -- means that FSU's quarterbacks not only have to be talented but they have to be thick-skinned and willing to work, too.
"That's what I would do if I were a coach," said Jameis Winston, FSU's starter, and if all goes to plan, the next in a long line of Fisher-produced NFL Draft picks at quarterback. "He's competitive. He wants everything to go perfect. He's a perfectionist, and that's one thing you want in a coach. You don't want a coach to allow you to do bad things and let little things go by."
Three games into the 2013 season with three victories, eight touchdown passes and a nation's second-best pass-efficiency rating (210.5) and it's clear that Winston isn't letting anything in his relationship with Fisher get past him.
Whether it's in the film room or on the practice fields honing his craft under Fisher's watchful eye, FSU's redshirt freshman under center has shown an early and consistent ability to make the most of his coach's teachings.
Perhaps just as importantly, Winston has also shown that he and his mentor are always on the same page.
"When he says I'm getting too aggressive, that means that I'm making decisions off of emotions and not off of business," Winston said. "And when you start making decisions off of, 'I want the big touchdown,' instead of making decisions like, `Get that crumb, let's get that first down, let's drive the ball downfield,' that's when mistakes start to happen."
Winston's ability to bounce back from mistakes will ultimately be his greatest strength as a quarterback. Sure his unique athleticism, arm strength, touch and ability to read defenses is important, but how he responds when the game is crumbling around him will define Winston as a football player and potential Heisman Trophy contender.
A trio of games into his career and Fisher likes what he has seen from his young pupil in that regard -- especially after a win over Bethune-Cookman in which Winston's statistics weren't quite as gaudy as they had been.
"Every time he came to the sideline he was articulating what was going on in the game, what he saw or `hey, we can do this, or we can do that,'" Fisher said. "... For a young guy sometimes when they don't make a play they're used to making, they just move on to the next play and he played the next play and moved on. Proud of that."
Fisher is proud because he cares for his quarteback. And on the flip side, Winston cares for his coach because he knows there's a winning recipe at work.
"I just saw how he worked with EJ [Manuel] and how they were together," Winston said. "They were a team, and I knew eventually I would have to get that team, me and him, would have to get that trust. In the spring it was real big, actually all the quarterbacks have that certain trust with him, and that's why he produces the quarterbacks that he does.
"He and the quarterback, he basically molds us into an image of himself, because he played quarterback, and that's why when he teaches us and [quarterbacks coach Randy] Sanders, when they teach us, they teach us to do the things that they would do on the field. So, if they do get on to us, it'll be okay."