It was a moment caught on film that typically only a select few within earshot would have heard, and it was quite possibly the best piece of video HBO’s “Hard Knocks” captured this summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter tore into star quarterback Jameis Winston over an errant throw in the second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It would have been an interception had he not been ruled down by contact.
“Are you f—ing s—-ing me? Are you f—ing kidding me? Why you gotta be doing that?”
Winston responded, “It’s my fault. I know, I know.”
Koetter continued, “Jameis, you’re f—ing playing a great game. You’re playing a great game, and then your greed takes over. But this is real football. That’s f—ing stupid. That’s guaranteed points. You’re so much better than that. You’re so much better. You’re playing a great game. You just threw a great, perfect spot to O.J. [Howard]. Great go route. And then you f—ing do that.”
Winston nodded, fastening his helmet and preparing to go back to work.
“I got you. I got you. I got you. I got you. Yes, sir.”
It wasn’t the first time that happened.
“It wasn’t for the cameras. It wasn’t for the show,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “I’ve seen Dirk yell at the guy, pull him out one time. Most guys would have tanked in or, ‘Man, who are you? Why are you talking to me like this? I’m Jameis Winston, the starting quarterback.’ You demand a certain kind of respect. But he never does it. He never talks back to Dirk. He just takes it. Whatever Dirk says, it’s, ‘Yes, sir,’ and he just goes back and does it.”
Those moments typically happen in practices — not in games. But the “Hard Knocks” footage provided a glimpse of Koetter’s no-nonsense, direct coaching style — and Winston’s ability to handle it.
“Jameis does it the right way. He takes to coaching. There’s no hard feelings,” wide receiver Mike Evans said. “They’re close. They care about each other. Just some guys are different. Some guys can take the coaching better than others. Jameis is one of those guys who can take it real well. … It does take a special type of guy to be able to do that.”
Added backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “As a quarterback, you have to have thick skin. Not everybody does, but it’s a great attribute to have. It’s nice to see somebody like Jameis that’s as talented as he is that is gonna be able to be receptive to that type of stuff. … He does a nice job of taking different criticisms and things and really trying to apply them. … I think that makes him an easy guy to coach.”
It’s what Winston’s grown accustomed to, and it’s actually what he prefers. He thrives on hard coaching and Koetter’s direct style of communicating. He also believes it creates a healthy sort of pressure in practice or, in the case of “Hard Knocks,” a meaningless preseason game.
“When you see that your leader can be yelled at and talked to any kind of way, everybody else better fall in line. Like, ‘Who are you to get mad at your coach for coaching you up if your leader can take [that] coaching?'” Demar Dotson on Jameis Winston
“All that is is adversity in the moment when you’re getting yelled at,” Winston said. “Your coach isn’t going to be on the field when you are playing a game, so when you have that moment in practice more often than in a game, [it gets you ready for the game].
“I look at it from a father-son perspective because that’s a relationship that me and coach [Jimbo] Fisher had at Florida State, and he was harder on me than anyone else.”
Koetter believes it has something to do with his quarterback’s upbringing. Winston grew up in a house in which three slept in a single bed. He watched his grandmother, Myrtle Winston, who suffered from diabetes and passed away this past year, sit on the same hard stool every day. He watched his father, Antonor, get ready for work every night to perform traffic maintenance for the city of Bessemer, Alabama.
At a young age, Winston saw their struggles and recognized his exceptional gift with football. He felt it was his responsibility to see that his family could live a better life. So when he arrives at One Buc Place every morning at 5:45 — before any of his teammates — he heads to Koetter’s office. He tells him, “Coach me harder.” And Koetter does.
“Jameis is extremely coachable,” Koetter said. “Jameis wants to be great, so he knows he is going to hear about it. He owns it. That’s one of our things that is on our expectation list. … He never takes it personally. Jameis is as coachable of a guy as I’ve been around.”
“Owning it” is one of the Bucs’ core beliefs. It’s inscribed on a giant poster outside their locker room at Raymond James Stadium. It’s also on T-shirts they wear in practice. Winston takes that to heart. He recognizes the effect it can have on the rest of the team.
“As a head coach, you’ve got to be able to count on certain guys for the team to be successful,” Winston said. “I want to be that person who is held accountable. I’m already the quarterback. The quarterback is already the one who gets scrutinized for most things, and even if [he] throws three picks, he played a good game. I want to be that person that gets yelled at in front of their teammates to make them feel better — just like, ‘OK, our quarterback is getting yelled at, too.'”
For Dotson, it does the trick.
“When you see that your leader can be yelled at and talked to any kind of way, everybody else better fall in line,” Dotson said. “Like, ‘Who are you to get mad at your coach for coaching you up if your leader can take [that] coaching?'”