No matter what level of football you watch, the quarterback faces more scrutiny than anybody else on the team.
That comes with the position.
But as we have seen in recent years, recent months and even recent days, that scrutiny has grown exponentially thanks to an instant gratification culture that has taken hold. We have become conditioned to expect highly recruited players to ascend to stratospheric levels without ever playing a down, based on potential alone. We have become conditioned to criticize immediately and judge harshly when mistakes are made.
This is the culture that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston entered during the spring. Based on his high school exploits -- and his performance in the spring game -- expectations have already been set, even though Winston has never taken a snap in a college football game. You can bet coach Jimbo Fisher will be bombarded with questions about Winston when he talks next week at ACC media days, especially since he has yet to declare a starter.
But Fisher just wants folks to tap on the brakes a little bit, as opposed to slamming on the gas when they build their expectations for the redshirt freshman.
"Sometimes we put them on such a pedestal that even when they’re great, they’re not great enough," Fisher said recently. "Guys never played until they were redshirt juniors. Now, if you’re not going to be a top 3 draft pick as a junior, you’re a bust. So we put those kids up so high that they can’t live up to it. That’s the only thing I fear.
"It doesn’t bother me. I know what plane he’s going to be on. I just hope our fans and people understand that because it’s so important as far as the fairness to the kid. He’s still 18 years old."
Winston was available to the football media twice during the spring -- before practice began, and briefly after the spring game. His past as one of the most highly touted prospects in the 2012 signing class at least gives him an idea of what is in store for him this season. He is used to scrutiny, and he is used to the spotlight. He handled both well in high school.
And let's not forget he juggled two sports this spring, a sign of a player who knows how to manage his time and fulfill his responsibilities. So much so that Fisher says he has no intention of making Winston drop baseball to focus exclusively on football.
Still, the spotlight will burn brighter as the starting quarterback at Florida State, a program that has produced a rich quarterback history. Its last two starters became first-round picks. Winston already has been compared to Charlie Ward, one of two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in school history.
For better or worse, greatness is expected now. It may be too late for those dialed-up expectations to be dialed down.
"Can he handle (the expectations)?" Fisher said. "Has he dealt with it? He seems to have done it in spring, he seems to do it in baseball. There’s no reason he can’t, but a guy’s going to stumble occasionally. He’s going to make a mistake. But hopefully we’ll be talented enough around him to help in those moments."