Fisher brushes off Winston criticism

ByJared Shanker ESPN logo
Friday, September 19, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher dismissed any criticism that Jameis Winston's half-game suspension for a profane and sexually charged outburst was too light.

"We're in charge. It's our team. That's our thought. We went with the consequences and we're ready to move on," Fisher said Thursday.

Florida State interim president Garnett S. Stokes and athletic director Stan Wilcox suspended the No. 1 Seminoles' star quarterback for the first half of Saturday's game against No. 22 Clemson in a joint statement Wednesday. They denounced Winston's behavior, calling it "offensive and vulgar."

Fisher's name was not on the statement, which raised eyebrows and questions as to whether this was a decision that came down from the administration rather than Fisher.

"They're always involved in university policies," Fisher said. "That's things at Florida State, the way we do it."

Fisher was asked a follow-up question about whether he usually is the one to mete out punishment, but he did not respond.

He also declined to divulge what Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, told him about what happened outside the student union building Tuesday, instead saying the team is preparing for the 8 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday against Clemson. The winner of this game has won the ACC the past three seasons.

"He was wrong, and he made a mistake and a bad error in judgment," Fisher said. "That's water under the bridge. We got to move on and get ready for this game."

Fisher also said in an interview on SiriusXM's College Sports Nation channel that he doesn't think Winston is a "bad kid" but that he makes "bad decisions."

"What his problem is, he doesn't always see the danger in all the situations," Fisher said Thursday.

Backup quarterback Sean Maguire is now thrust into the starting position for the first time in his career after appearing only in mop-up duty last season. Maguire said Winston texted him Wednesday morning, and Fisher messaged him shortly after to come to his office. It was at that point that Maguire realized he would be the starting quarterback Saturday.

Interestingly, Maguire's parents aren't scheduled to be at their son's first start after giving away their tickets because he initially wasn't expected to see the field.

Fisher pointed out he has been forced to start a backup quarterback against the Tigers three times in his five seasons as coach, but this is the first time it came in the middle of preparations. Maguire said the offense will not change with him under center.

"He told me to be ready and said the game plan is not changing, this team is not changing, we're going to go out in the first half and do everything we usually would," Maguire said. "He had all the confidence in the world in me. He expects nothing to change just as so do I. ... It's a clich answer but it's true: Nothing really has changed this week."

Fisher also said in the SiriusXM interview that if Maguire lights things up in the first half, it's possible he could remain in the game in the second.

"Jameis is still your guy, but we'll have to see the flow of the game and what goes on," Fisher said. "I've thought of that, hypothetically, a bunch of times. I really have. It's got to be a feel, a game-time decision, what's going on."

The news of Winston's suspension initially was a distraction to the team but that quickly faded after Wednesday's practice, Maguire said. After the team left the practice field, Maguire and Winston went into the film room and stayed until 10 p.m. It is rare for the two to watch film together outside of quarterback meetings under the supervision and coaching of Fisher and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.

Fisher said Winston's presence during preparation and on the sideline will be critical for Maguire as he maneuvers the Seminoles' offense through the first half against a Clemson defense that understands it will be asked to carry the Tigers and keep the team's College Football Playoff hopes alive. Maguire received all the first-team practice reps the past two days.

"It eats me alive that I did something like that. I can't carry myself that way," Winston said Tuesday. "Me and Sean are going to watch film, we're going to do what we do and I'm going to try my best to still put this team in a good chance to win this game. I'm going to make sure he does a great job. Me and him are going to go to work."

Winston, who arrived at Florida State for the 2012 fall semester, addressed his teammates Wednesday about the incident, which is the sixth off-field transgression of his career at Florida State. Fisher said he was not in the room when Winston spoke to the team, but Maguire said it was a passionate apology from Winston, who will be forced to sit for the first time in his Florida State football career. He was suspended from the baseball team for three games in the spring following a shoplifting incident.

"Jameis loves this team as much as the next guy, if not even more," Maguire said. "I know how he feels as far as how deep his apology goes."

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