Jameis Winston’s First Game Was Better Than Cam, RGIII, And Manziel’s Best Games Ever

With a dazzling national TV debut against Pitt, Florida State’s freshman managed to surpass even the lofty expectations that followed him to Tallahassee. If you go by QBR, his performance was even better than the best of the last three Heisman winners.

Justin K. Aller / Getty

Here’s how Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston’s game Monday compared to the best-ever efforts of the last three Heisman-winning quarterbacks against FBS teams (i.e. against reasonably-qualified opponents) using the QBR stat.

2010, Cam Newton: 9-of-14 for 186 yards and three touchdowns and 15 rushes for 171 yards and two touchdowns vs. Arkansas State. 246.6 quarterback rating.

2011, Robert Griffin III: 21-of-27 for 359 yards and five touchdowns and 10 rushes for 38 yards vs. TCU. 250.6 quarterback rating.

2012, Johnny Manziel: 14-of-20 for 267 yards and three touchdowns and one interception and 16 rushes for 102 yards and two touchdowns vs. Sam Houston State. 221.6 quarterback rating.

2013, WInston: 25-of-27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns and eight rushes for 25 yards and one touchdown.

Winston’s quarterback rating against Pittsburgh? 252.2. Better than Cam or Manziel or RGIII’s best game.

It was one of those rare performances that exceeded the hype, and Pittsburgh could not have been blamed for being unprepared for a redshirt freshman quarterback with not a snap of college football on his resumé before Monday. Winston’s stat line from the first half alone was staggering: 17-of-18 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. By halftime, he was already trending on Twitter.

Surely, after a halftime to chew over a little film and catch its breath, Pitt — which ranked 21st in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2012 — would finally get a handle on Already Famous Jameis?

Not so much. Winston completed his first pass after the break for 42 yards to Kenny Shaw. He went 7-of-8 for 116 yards with another touchdown in the second half, leading Florida State to a 41-13 season-opening victory. Smiling wide after the game, Winston was jarringly honest about that evening’s events: “It was easy money for me,” he told ESPN’s Sam Ponder, who is married to a Minnesota Vikings and former FSU star quarterback that everyone has already forgotten about. So yes, it was as easy to him as he made it look to us.

“I can get better every single day. I had two busts. I got sacked…I don’t like getting sacked” — A Man Among Boys

That Winston hasn’t even tapped into the entirety of his talents should excite anyone who cares about football and terrify anyone unfortunate enough to line up against him. Where did this guy come from?

He was one of the nation’s top-ranked quarterback recruits in Hueytown, Alabama, where also excelled enough as an outfielder and pitcher to be drafted in the 15th round of the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. He burnished his credentials at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in the summer of 2011, where he was named co-MVP and made a fan of former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.

He followed that up with a five-star senior season that created most of the hype, being named an All-American by ESPN, Under Armour, USA Today, Parade magazine and a host of other outlets, completing 69 percent of his passes for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns and running for 1,065 yards and 15 more scores at 7.4 yards per. Here’s a sample:

Pitt can sympathize with these children from Alabama.

Winston led Hueytown High to a 13-0 record and into the Alabama Class 5A semifinals against traditional power Vigor High School. Then-Vigor defensive coordinator Ashley Johnson had heard all about Winston’s exploits up in Hueytown, a town of about 16,000 just outside of Birmingham.

“They were scoring about 46 points a game and could’ve scored a lot more,” Johnson told BuzzFeed today. “It was ridiculous. They usually had to call the dogs off in the second half.” Not against Vigor, which succeeded where Pitt couldn’t and slowed down Winston and Co., in a 20-7 victory. Vigor had serious talent, sending five players to college from the 2012 class; it was the rare team with enough beef to stop Hueytown from trampling it up front and enough skill to blanket Winston’s receiving targets without dropping extra players into coverage. No one had seen Winston in an actual game since that night on Nov. 24, 2011. (He redshirted last year.) Despite his high school career having ended on somewhat of a downer, his legend grew nonetheless, mostly from breathless reports from practice and some truly amazing YouTube clips.

Little-known, untrue fact: FSU tight end Nick O’Leary caught this pass and took it in for a 20-yard touchdown against Pitt.

And THAT’s why some call him the next Bo Jackson.

Winston went 12-of-15 for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the Garnet and Gold spring game in April, and participated in a mostly anticlimactic quarterback duel in fall camp until Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher tabbed him the starter little more than a week ago. That brings us to Labor Day, where the 6-foot-4, 225-pound “Jaboo” — a name bestowed upon the animated Winston by his mother when he was a toddler — put in work and had the internet going nuts.

It didn’t take long to recalibrate those already soaring expectations for the freshman. Before Monday, sportsbook Bovado tabbed him as a 33-to-1 favorite to win the Heisman. One game later, those odds are expected to improve to 10-to-1. Of course, he just has to keep it up. No pressure.

He ain’t scared.

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