Can the Buccaneers Succeed with Jameis Winston?
Talent always rises over the background noise when it comes to professional drafts, and this year will be no different. Jameis Winston is an undeniable talent. His 2013 Heisman and National title campaign was riveting and electric. Without all the facts you could even give him the benefit of the doubt when he was accused of sexual assault last year. But for one time supporters, as I was, the continued off the field battles has made him unlikeable. But has his draft stock fallen? Of course not.
At one point I deluded myself enough to think maybe the villain would fall outside of the first round and cost him a lot of money off of his Rookie contract. How could I be so foolish? And to defend Jameis my, and i suspect many others, distaste for him has as much to do with the coddling and protection that Florida State has given to him as it does with his actions. This, however, is how it works in the NCAA. Athletic Directors, communities and coaches protect their star collegiate athletes, let them skate by with slaps on the wrist and then down the road when the coach is ready to move on and the player is no longer churning a profit for his “alma mater” they strip them of their accolades and let the player take the fall. Ask Reggie Bush. Back to Jameis. Tampa Bay will absolutely take Jameis first round because the reward is worth the risk. GM’s don’t get many chances, and coaches rarely get more than a second chance. Mike Glennon is not the answer and you have the number one pick.
This marriage has the recipe for disaster and it hasn’t even happened yet. Over the past 5 years Tampa hasn’t exactly been a great home for the troubled youth of the NFL. Josh Freeman was drafted in 2009 and in 2010 threw 25 Touchdowns and 6 interceptions. By 2013 he was showing up late to practice, missing team photos off to an 0-3 start and soon cut and subsequently out of the league. Then you look at Aqib Talib, whose wrap sheet includes fighting a teammate at the rookie symposium, fighting teammates in practice, assaulting a cab driver in 2009 and a suspension in 2012 for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Since Tampa he’s had successful quiet stints in New England and Denver. LeGarratte Blount also continued his off the field issues and showing up late tendencies in Tampa before landing in New England. To be fair, while being productive and cooperative in New England he did quit in pittsburgh mid season last year.
The point here is simple. It’s almost foregone that Winston will be throwing to Mike Evans in Tampa under Lovie Smith next year. The question is, is the new regime of Jason Licht (GM) and Lovie Smith different from Tampa’s last where they can mold this freakish talent into a pro? Or are we watching the Johnny Manziel Cleveland Browns saga southern edition? When Licht took over as GM in 2014 he said they would “Build through the draft”. Well, 2015’s first round pick may be a make or break decision for a young GM in what has been a dysfunctional franchise for most of history. One of the most interesting story lines of the early 2015 season will begin on Thursday April 30th.
By Ryan Whitfield