Winston makes a debut that no one will remember

by Gary Shelton on August 13, 2015 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston gets ready to face another team for the first time./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Winston gets ready to face another team for the first time/ANDREW J. KRAMER

No one remembers what Neil Armstrong's steps looked he walked toward the space capsule.

Only the ones on the moon.

So keep in mind that, eventually, you will forget Jameis Winston's debut on Saturday night when teams start keeping score.

Whether he is good, or whether he is bad, whether he lines up behind guard or does the Seminole Chomp between plays, you will not remember. It is not your fault. The preseason games of the NFL are designed to be forgotten. In the meal of your life, no one

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remembers the salad.

The best efforts of rookie quarterbacks in their preseason openers are lost to time. Few people record the stats, and fewer people remember them. After all, it is practice. Despite the ticket prices and the uniforms and the functioning scoreboard, it is practice. Winston will probably play about a quarter Saturday night, perhaps a little more. He'll throw about 20 passes, perhaps a few more. And for a week, we will dissect what we can, and we will discuss his stats and our impressions of how he will look against another jersey.

And then we'll forget it. Because real games are coming, and real moments. Those are the ones you will remember. A preseason game is but a hint. It is better to play good than play bad, but no one is really going to remember if Winston goes five for 15 or 10 for 15.

Do you really remember how Dan Marino played in his first preseason game? Joe Montana? Does it really matter at this point? Of course not. Hey, even Ryan Leaf had a good rookie preseason.

That said, there are a few things you want to see of your hope for the future. How does he command the huddle? How careless is he with the ball? Does he show tendencies? Can you squint and see him getting better? When he delivers a medium range ball, is it tight and crisp? Does he have the knack for throwing long? The touch for throwing short? Can he absolutely promise you that he isn't JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf?

In other words, you are left with impressions, not statistics. Remember that as Winston takes his first steps onto the field.

Bucs' coach Lovie Smith, for instance, said he'd like to see Winston run a two-minute offense.

“In a perfect world, yes. In a perfect world, some time,'' Smith said. "We have other preseason games. It’s not (that) we want to get it all in the first one, but he will hopefully get a two-minute drive in sometime during this preseason.

"You can’t script it completely, but that’s why you have to put him in situations like this. We see when there is a sack or something like that. (It’s about) operation, as much as anything. He did make some good throws. He’s put together a few good days. It seems like he’s taken a step to being a little bit closer to where we want him to be.”

Oh, he is a kid at the start of his journey, impossibly young, charmingly optimistic, completely unafraid of what this league is capable of doing with raw talent. Most of what you hear about him are rave reviews, that he's hungry and ambitious and works hard and cares.

But can he play? No, we won't remember a preseason game for long. For now, however, it's all we got. So we will watch.

Once, there was another kid. His name was Vinny Testaverde. Perhaps you have heard of him. In 1987, Testaverde played in his first preseason game. Frankly, he left them buzzing. Testaverde finished the game in a rush, bringing the Bucs back to within a point in a 31-30 defeat (an extra point was missed) against Cincinnati. There was good; Testaverde threw for three scores. There was bad; he threw two interceptions. There was pain; he was sacked three times.

In that moment, however, Testaverde was sparkling promise. You would have bet on him to lead the Bucs' turnaround. You would have lost.

There were other moments. Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception on his first pass. Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck threw for a touchdown.

Of course, this is preferable to the way Steve Young started his career with the Bucs. Young never played a second in the 1985 preseason. He was thrown into the lineup in week 13, however, and hit 16 of 27 passes for 167 yards in a win over Detroit. Young lost his next four starts, however, throwing eight interceptions along the way.

In his first preseason game, Josh Freeman had a rating of 32.9. Ouch. Trent Dilfer, in his first game, started out 0-for-3 with an interception (his four-for-eight finish wasn't that bad). Doug Williams was six of 14.

Frankly, it's hard to get a read on a quarterback's numbers. In his first game, Tim Tebow hit eight of out of 13 passes against Cincinnati and had a rating of 87.

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