That the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 5-5 – this after going 2-14 last season – probably seems surprising, if not stunning, to a lot of people.
Perhaps it shouldn’t.
Yes, drafting a franchise quarterback – as Tampa Bay did with Jameis Winston – has a way of reversing fortunes in a hurry.
“Well, when I knew we had a chance to get him – with him being as talented as he was coming out of college – I knew we were getting a winner,” Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The kid lost one game in college. It’s not easy to do. It doesn’t matter what university you go to or what situation you’re put in. Winning all those games, losing only one – and winning the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in the midst of all that – that’s hard to do. So I knew we had a kid that had winning in his blood.”
Florida State trailed Auburn 21-3 in the national championship game but came back to win, 34-31 – this after Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds to go.
“If you watched the national championship game, you seen how they had to fight back and how he led the way,” McCoy said. “So I knew we had a natural-born leader. I knew if we had an opportunity to get this kid, we was going to have something special on our hand.”
Winston started his pro career 2-4 but has come on strong as of late. He ran for the game-winning touchdown in a 10-6 home win over the Cowboys on Nov. 15, and he threw for 246 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in a 45-17 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia on Nov. 22. The Bucs have won three of four to climb back to .500.
So, yes, the Bucs have a winner under center. They also have a winner on the sidelines in head coach Lovie Smith.
“He’s won at every level he’s been at,” McCoy said. “When I say level, I mean as a position coach, he’s been a winner; as a coordinator, he’s been a winner; as a head coach, he’s been a winner. So he knows what it takes to win. He’s seen the ups and downs of many NFL seasons, so he knows what it takes to be a winner. So to have a leader like that – and as great of a coach as he is – you don’t want to do anything but follow him and do your best to win for him. So really, it’s just been a matter of us staying the course and young guys growing up fast. We’re starting to understand what it takes to win.”
The Bucs play the Colts (5-5) in Indy this Sunday. A win would give Tampa Bay a winning record for the first time since November 2012.
McCoy was asked if the Bucs, currently the 7-seed in the NFC, are playing with a win-at-all-costs mentality.
“Yeah, I would say that simply because we are in the hunt and we’re right there in the mix,” McCoy said. “We don’t want to take any steps back. We don’t want to remain stagnant. We want to keep moving forward forward and build on the momentum we have from the past two weeks. We’ve played well on the road this year, so we just have to keep that mentality and keep pushing forward.”
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.