As Jameis Winston trotted off the field following a highlight-worthy 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick O’Leary, he thanked each of his offensive linemen on the sideline before turning to his head coach.
The play had been miraculous, with the redshirt freshman escaping a near-certain sack by spinning away from two Maryland Terrapins defenders before firing a laser in the back of the end zone.
But along the sideline as shock and elation washed over the faces of Winston’s teammates, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had a much different facial expression.
“He always has those little smirks,” Winston joked after the game. “When he has that smirk, he’s about to tell me that I did something wrong. [But] he’s also about to tell me, ‘Great play, but don’t let it happen again.’
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“That’s the one thing I love about Coach Fisher. Even if I make an outstanding play or we make a great touchdown or something, he’s always going to correct me and I need that.”
When asked about the play Fisher quickly responded. “He should have done something else,” to a smattering of laughter. “He thought it was a sack and he spun out and he does as good of a job of getting out of pressure once he’s out and finding guys down the field as he’s eluding.”
“He can transfer from his eyes to what he sees and get the ball out of his hands. It was a tremendous play.”
In Winston, Fisher might finally have the prototypical quarterback for his offense. In four games against FBS opponents, Winston has had a quarterback rating of over 200 each game. EJ Manuel only accomplished that feat twice in his career at FSU, Christian Ponder never accomplished it — both were drafted in the first round.
“I just saw how he worked with EJ [Manuel] and how they were together. They were a team, and I knew eventually I would have to get that team, me and him, would have to get that trust,” said Winston. “I trust him 100 percent, and the better I trust him, the more comfortable I am with him.”
To the untrained ear though, it almost could sound like Fisher isn’t a huge fan of his quarterback.
All season Fisher has overtly attempted to pump the brakes on the Winston hype express. The mercurial signal caller is currently fourth on ESPN’s Heisman watch and earned Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp national player honors for his 23 of 32, 393-yard, five-TD performance against Maryland, but you’d never know by listening to the fourth year head coach.
On Saturday, against a room full of praise for Winston, Fisher said, “We give the quarterbacks all the glory and all the blame. I tell you that all the time.”
“I thought he could have taken some other balls down that I wish he could have taken earlier and did some things. You know, he’s still a work in progress and he knows it. He’s his own worst critic; he’s tough on himself.”
And so is Fisher.
And as Tallahassee — and increasingly the country — become more enamored with Winston, maybe the best thing for the redshirt freshman quarterback is that his coach is not.
“That’s one thing you want in a coach,” said Winston. “You don’t want a coach to allow you to do bad things and let little things go by.”