Fisher, Winston cut from same cloth

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Back home in Alabama, the temper was as much a part of Jameis Winston's legend as the cannon arm or the fluid delivery.

On the field, he could be a madman, lashing out at anyone who stood between his team and victory. Winston might bark at a teammate during practice or voice his opposition to a ref's call on game night, enough that his high school coach had once threatened to bench him if he couldn't control his emotions. As Winston matured, he learned to better harness that competitive fire, but even now, it still burns.

"I'm a competitor until the day I die," Winston said.

Perhaps that's why his rapport with Jimbo Fisher comes so naturally. They are kindred spirits, competitors cut from the same cloth. They demand perfection because anything less would be a wasted opportunity.

Fisher's temper on the field was already an accepted idiosyncrasy at Florida State, and no one earns more ire on a regular basis than his quarterback. The lectures come routinely -- after bad plays and, on numerous occasions, good ones, too. There's always room to improve and Fisher never neglects an opportunity to get better.

It's a demeanor that could rattle even the most confident of quarterbacks, but Winston revels in it.

"It doesn't bother him a bit," Fisher said. "He's harder on himself that I am. It motivates him. That stuff, he likes it."

In last week's 54-6 win over Bethune-Cookman, Winston added two more touchdown throws to his impressive season total, including a bullet to Kelvin Benjamin as he sprinted away from a trio of defenders. Fans roared, teammates celebrated and Winston knew he was in trouble.

Bethune-Cookman brought the blitz, and Winston was supposed to make a quick throw to his hot route. Instead, he held the ball, looking for a bigger play downfield. He got greedy, and as he made his way to the sideline, Fisher wrapped an arm around his shoulder and reiterated the point.

"I knew I messed up," Winston said. "I had to at least throw the touchdown while I get yelled at in the film room."

The tongue-lashings are part of the process, Fisher said. It's part competitive zeal, part motivational needling. As much as anything, though, it's a test. He needs to see how far he can push his quarterback, and he wants to see how the player responds.

"You have to do that, and you have to test them because in the game, quarterbacks get yelled at by their own players," Fisher said. "People get on you, 80,000 people get on you. How do you deal with all that?"

Few deal with it better than Winston. Teammates say no one takes more heat from Fisher, and yet they've never seen Winston make the same mistake twice.

If there's a criticism of Winston's relationship with his coach, it's that he's perhaps not intimidated enough when the verbal jabs begin to mount. Chalk it up to all that common ground the two men share. Winston knows what drives his coach, and so he understands when it's time to shrug off a critique and when it's time to buckle down.

"When Coach Fisher tries to yell at me and intimidate me, he knows I'm going to look at him like, 'Coach, I know you're trying to get up under my skin,' and it's not necessarily going to work," Winston said. "But when I know he's serious, I get a different attitude, and I've got to lock in."

That hasn't stopped Fisher from leaning on his quarterback. That's his nature. But Winston's response to the prodding has earned him a sizable bit of latitude on the field.

The key isn't eliminating mistakes, Fisher said, but understanding them, and Winston always knows what he's done wrong before Fisher can unleash his wrath. That's given Fisher the confidence to let Winston freelance on the field in spite of his limited experience.

"Each player, what he can absorb at that time in his career, matters as to how much leeway you give them," Fisher said. "He gets more than most."

Winston downplayed his freedom to improvise. Yes, he's making the decisions on the field, he said, but he's simply going through the same processes Fisher has taught him again and again.

It's a harmony between coach and QB, two men who view the game through the same prism.

Fisher's expectations are high, but no higher than Winston's. If Fisher is angry about a busted play, Winston is angrier. If Fisher lambasts his quarterback after a bad read, Winston already knows what he needs to do.

The yelling, that's just a small part of it, Winston said.

"That's what I would do if I was a coach," Winston said. "He's competitive. He wants everything to go perfectly. He's a perfectionist, and that's something you want in a coach."

Still, the volume can start to grate for even the most amenable players after a while, so Winston at least makes the effort to keep Fisher calm. It's a fool's errand, but he likes to try.

Fisher isn't going to change and Winston wouldn't want him to.

"I can quiet him," Winston said, "but I can't stop him from yelling."