Ask Gary: Should Bucs keep Winston or cut him?

by Gary Shelton on June 30, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

Winston faces trust issues from fans./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston faces trust issues from fans./CARMEN MANDATO

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Finally, the NFL investigation in the Jameis Winston / Uber driver case is completed and the suspension has been rendered. In many ways, this has become a worst-case scenario for the Bucs. We now know that Winston did what he is accused of, then lied about it and tried to cover it up with a contrived story. We have heard over and over about how Winston is immature and needs to grow up but this goes way beyond that. Do you expect the Glazers will continue to back this guy up and pay him millions of dollars to be their franchise QB? Could how the Glazers handle the fall out be a turning point in the history of the franchise?

Larry Beller

Larry, the suspension -- and how the Glazers react -- will certainly be a key segment in the team's history. I don't know if it qualifies as a turning point, because I'm not sure it marks a significant change in the fortune of the team. (They're not a good team, and releasing a quarterback  wouldn't allow them to be.)

It's amusing to me that the "apology" was carefully crafted so not to include an admission of guilt. I really don't know how else a fan is going to take it but a confession.

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The Uber driver didn't accuse him of littering in her car. What else could he be apologizing for? Don't hand me spin here. The league obviously believed the driver more than it believed Winston. What's worse is that Winston's lie made it easier to believe he had lied while at FSU. I'm not sure you can trust a thing he is saying anymore.

Again, I'm sure we'll get spin and dodge-ball. But I think a lot of people see Winston in a clearer light, and it isn't pretty.

How do the Glazers handle it? There is just one way: Win. I know that paints the rest of us as shallow, but that's how Ben Roethlisberger got past his sex scandal. He won. Since Roethlisberger was accused of rape -- the prosecutor could not gather enough evidence to bring the cas to trial -- he has been to the playoffs five times. Winning is a great eraser to the public.

Peyton Manning also had some ugly accusations against him while at Tennessee. That was before the days when the internet was so prevalent, and he won a lot of games, too.

So you're the Glazers, and you're sitting on a multi-million dollar investment. I don't think anyone with a clear head expects the team to come out and cut him (Pittsburgh didn't cut Roethlisberger).

But I think, among themselves, the Glazers need to discuss a strategy going forward. I would certainly consider him on probation, and I'd consider not renewing his contract. Remember all those vows that Winston would never get in trouble again? He lied to the Glaziers most of all. He took their money and kept up the sleaze.

I thought of you when I read that Winston says he isn't going to drink anymore. I hope not. I don't know what good comes from it when a guy can't handle booze.

The tough thing for the rest of us is giving him time. If Winston worked in a shoe store, he'd get fired for lying to his bosses and sexual impropriety. We all want snap judgments and decisive actions. But it didn't help the franchise when it cut Aqib Talib (and I was all for it). It didn't help when it moved a lot of quarterbacks who went on to success.

Eventually, of course, Winston has to be responsible, and his team's owners have to hold him responsible. If they decide to move on now, you can't blame anyone. But the precedent says you ride it out and hope he can outgrow this. I have my doubts.

Jameis Winston's Uber incident in Arizona occurred in April of 2016, but did not become known until November of 2017.  How do we know that there are not other shoes to drop regarding his behavior?

Scott Myers

Well, there's a depressing question. And here's a depressing answer. We don't know.
Here's what we have. We have a. young man who is prone to bad decisions, who has untold wealth and unchecked entitlement. He has time on his hands and he's reached the drinking age. Whatever could go wrong?
Really, all we have is this: Millionaires who get in trouble get discovered. So, sure, Winston could have other reports to follow. He could have paid huge money and he could be trusting that his libido remains unchecked.
Frankly, Scott, how could it surprise any of us if there is more to come? Might another Uber driver come out next week? Sigh. Maybe. Can you imagine working the Bucs' front office and waiting for the phone to ring on Saturday night,
And doesn't that make your spine tingle?

I don't feel sorry for the Bucs because they got what they deserved with Jameis Winston and his three-game suspension for sexual assault. The team should have known this is a dude with a dark side. To recap:

- 2012, Accused of rape at FSU and settled with the alleged victim.
- 2013, Stealing soda at a Tallahassee Burger King.
- 2014, Stole crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix.
- 2014, Suspended for jumping on an FSU cafeteria table and yelling vulgarities.
- This week, Pretty much admitted to sexual assault and fortunate that the suspension in these #MeToo times wasn't longer.
My question is this. Is it time for the Bucs to part ways with Winston? If so, why? And if not, why not?
 
Peter Kerasotis
This is hard to say, because we all want to be decisive and strong here. None of us want to tolerate sexual assault. So it's easy to have an "off-with-his-head" mentality.
But, no, it's not time. Not yet.
Hear me out before you decide that I'm insane, or wrong or misguided. I'm not defending Winston. I just think it's not the right time. Yet.
Peter, we've talked, and we're pretty much in agreement with what you called Winston's "dark side." But the precedent here is that you don't cut and run. The Steelers didn't do that with Ben Roethlisberger (accused of rape) or Peyton Manning (whose problems were at the University of Tennessee.
Now, let's be mindful of this: I don't care about screaming the profane lyrics of a. rap song. I don't care about soda or crab legs. To me, you're talking about Dillinger jaywalking. But I do care about sexual assault; I have daughters. We don't need to drag in all the things he was accused of in college to point out this guy's lack of judgment. A lot of people will conclude he's not a good guy. I certainly don't know any better.
Now, I wouldn't blame the Glazers if they cut Winston today. I really wouldn't. But cutting problem children has rarely worked out for the Bucs. If I were a Glazier, I'd take my time before deciding what to do. I wouldn't cut him (yet), but I wouldn't give him a new contract (yet), either. I'd see how this year played out.  Does this affect his play? His standing in the locker room? In the community? Does he try to spin the suspension (He didn't exactly say what he was apologizing for.  Did you catch that?)?
Winston got off easy. Three games -- in which the Bucs will be underdogs each time -- is a hiccup. The price he paid is in trust.  He isn't worth the faith that some fans still have in him.
Are you hearing anything about Jameis Winston telling Jason Licht or the Glazers the truth before his impending suspension was reported by Adam Schefter? If he lied to them and claimed innocence, I think that will doom him for 2019. If he secretly told them the truth, I think he gets his second NFL contract offer in 2019. 
Either way, what the heck is wrong with him? He’s a person with issues. I surely hope he gets a psychologist. 

Carlos Ubinas

Carlos, the employees of One Buc Place are hiding under their desks. We haven't seen or heard from them other than an anonymous team statement of disappointment.
As far as a proper timeline, it's hard to say. I'm sure Winston tipped the Glazers and Dirk Koetter early, but it's anyone's guess as to how early. I would imagine the NFL office talked to him first, and the suspension was decided on, but the Bucs heard shortly after.
I do know Koetter lamented not hearing anything in late March. By then, Winston had sworn out loud that the charges were false. Was he more honest with Koetter? No one is saying. Did Koetter hear from the league offices? No one is saying.
Again, it's a guess, but Winston probably lied early and softened later.
Another guess is that a decision hasn't been made on whether to offer Winston a new contract. If I were the Glazers, I wouldn't cut him now (as I've said), but I wouldn't completely trust him, either. I would want a few months to be around him, to see how he reacts to the team and the coaches, how he plays, how he does with his turnover ratios, how he is in the community.
There's an old adage: Want someone to think you're a good guy? Then be a good guy.
Otherwise, this isn't over. And otherwise, his misdeeds will catch up to Winston. He will have proven the skeptics right.
As far as a shrink, that's a start. Winston needs to spend some time with victims. He needs to see the damage that someone in his position can cause.
Since Jameis apparently lied to the fans and the Glazers, would you trust him enough to sign him to a huge contract next year?
Jim Willson
Not today. Maybe not tomorrow.
This is all on Winston now. He has to prove to me that he's the quarterback to build this team around. He has to be successful on the field, and he has to be successful off to it. He has to win my trust all over again, and that's going to take time.
I've said it elsewhere here. I wouldn't cut him...yet. But I wouldn't hand him silly millions, either. And I'd tell him that. You lied to us, and you betrayed us, and you're at Square One. A lot of people wanted you gone ... today. Let's don't talk about statistics; let's talk about your rap sheet.
Look, if the Glazers cut Winston today, most people would nod and agree. People like their punishment swift and hard. He hasn't been good enough on the field to allow you to put up with him off of it, or vice versa.
And I realize, that's the hard part. How does someone prove to you that he's a good guy when he's provided evidence to the contrary? I've said that from the day the Bucs drafted Winston; old accusations never go away. They just wait in the shadows until something new brings them to life again. This one will wait, too. Just wait until the next slip. We'll be talking about confessions all over again. Every owner, every general manager, will go to bed dreading that 3 a.m. phone call.
It's going to be a lot time, and it's going to take a lot of victories, before the world trusts Winston again. Maybe that's as it should be.
As a lifelong fan of the Bucs, I’ve witnessed some down days to say the least and encountered more than my share of disappointing news events but this latest one with Jameis Winston takes the cake.  I supported him coming out of FSU (and I’m not a 'Nole fan, to say the least) despite the accusations towards him regarding his character and was thrilled we took him #1 overall in the draft.  I know he had a off-year last season with the injury but wondering if alcohol or more added to that.  I didn’t like Tom Jones’ article in the Times this morning placing onus on the Glazers to cut or release him immediately.  Easy for him to say. This coming from someone who poured verbal written man-love all on Tiger Woods playing in the area earlier this year as the “greatest sports moments in our community’s history.  Not sure how he can ignore Woods’ past indiscretions  andthen lambast Winston & the Bucs owners.  I’m not defending Winston, but do not feel this is an offense that justifies being released.  What’s your take on that?  If Gary owns the Bucs, what’s your reaction if any?  Also, am I off-base in criticizing your former colleague based on my point above?  I sent him an email early this morning. It wasn’t pretty.

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce, a columnist with any newspaper is entitled to his opinion, and you're entitled to yours. Neither is more valuable than the other's. Tom's a friend of mine, but we often joke that we agree on very little.

I've had Tom's job, and it isn't easy. All you can do is write your conscience. Not everyone is going to agree with you. It's a very unpopular position at times, and I've ticked off a lot of fans over the years. But I always wrote my heart.

I was disappointed in Winston, too. The guy has a charm to him, and he competes, and I've always liked that. But when he swears the charges are false and then backtracks, well, that was tough for me. No one likes to be lied to. (And don't fall for his spin that he never said what he was apologizing for. We're not stupid.)

Personally, as I've said, I wouldn't cut him...yet. I would continue to consider not giving him a new contract -- depending on his play and his comportment. Some will say that it's too late. But the history of the league punishing quarterbacks doesn't say you cut a guy facing suspension. When has that ever happened? Again: Not with Ben Roethlisbeger. Not with Brett Favre. Not with Peyton Manning.

But I'd let Winston know this. I'm pissed at him. I'm not "disappointed" or "let down." I'm pissed. This franchise is the one you told that you would be a model citizen, and you weren't. You put your future, and the future of the team, in jeopardy.  I'd let him know that he's a heartbeat from getting cut. Not this time, maybe, but on the next one. This franchise, which has embraced so manly athletes doing good work, cannot afford to embrace one who is doing bad work.

I'd demand that Winston volunteer at shelters for battered and abused women. I'd demand that he gets counseling. I'd test him for drugs and alcohol. I'd watch the way he conducts himself in the locker room. I'd watch the way he handles the huddle. I'd hire a private investigator to see if there are indeed other victims out there.

Then, after watching him up close, I would decide what to do in the best interests of my franchise.

Just before this broke, Bruce, I did a piece in response to a writer's suggestion that Winston was close to being a bust. He isn't. He's grown steadily, and his numbers compare well with some great quarterbacks after three seasons. To call him a bust on the field is foolish.

But he could be close to being a bust off of it. And he's down to, at most, his last chance. Get good, or get gone.

I loved your column on the Hall of Famers.   I understand Shula being at #1.  I was a little surprised that Bowden was so much lower considering how long his career was also.  Your thinking on that one? 

Jim Willson

Let me start with this. I love Bobby Bowden. I walked down the corridor with him at the Gator Bowl after he coached his final game. I enjoyed his interviews more than those of any other coaches. And I can certainly understand anyone who thinks he should be higher.

But the tough thing about rating greatness is this: As people read, they do their own lists. And if you put Bobby higher, you have to put someone else lower. Who would. you demote?  Brooks? Selmon? Esposito?  I'm serious.

Look, I didn't think of this as a rip on Bowden. He was the top-rated college coach on the list. (And yes, I usually favor players over coaches). I thought Bowden was great. He won two national titles, and he could have won more.

I don't know. Heck, you can move up a few spots if you'd like. None of us is beyond discussing this. Your rankings are as good as mine. So it's just which order you place Marty and Shaq and others).

But I'll say this, too. Someone read that list and decided that Sampras should be higher. Or Chris Evert. Or Danny Wuerffel. And on their lists, they would be. That's cool.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 30, 2018 at 5:39 am

I guess my thought on calling this a turning point for the Bucs is are we finally going to see an ownership stand up to the garbage of an entitled athlete getting away with this type of sociopathic behavior? That and the fact that history has shown missing on a number 1 pick at QB can set your team back for years.

Your opinion is the team will move forward with him and I tend to agree with you, reluctantly. Sports franchises are not in the business of employing players who win Man of the Year awards. It’s nice when that happens but winning games is the ultimate goal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our discussion last week regarding Winston’s drinking problem. I was glad to see it was addressed in his carefully crafted apology/statement. The problem I have is how can you believe him? He has demonstrated he will say and do anything to get past whatever current problem he has to deal with but his behavior doesn’t change. This is not a maturity issue in my opinion. It’s a flaw in his character. I believe part of the NFL’s requirement is that he must be evaluated and get some type of treatment. If Winston takes that opportunity seriously, it may turn his life around. I just don’t know how to root for a guy who has had so many chances and seems to blow them off and just do what he does.

I’m disgusted and pissed off by this guy. I don’t want him leading my team. But my opinion really doesn’t matter. Wins do. But again, if we are to judge Winston by that measure he has failed there too. Big Ben already had a Super Bowl win under his belt when his legal problems came up. Super Bowl wins will buy a lot of forgiveness. This franchise is so desperate that just the promise of wins enables Winston. A very sad commentary I would say.

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Gary Shelton June 30, 2018 at 4:09 pm

We agree completely. When I suggested it might not be a turning point, I was lamenting the sad history the franchise, which has never been very good.

We agree on the alcohol, too. It’s easy to say “I’ve stopped drinking,” but unless he is tested, how can you tell. (I hope the NFL tests, since booze was much of his problem.

I think we have our answer on believing him, though. We can’t. Hopefully, he’ll stay straight, as Roethlisberger has (he, too, got married). Hopefully, he’ll quit drinking late into the evening. But we can’t know that I thought Scott had a great question today with “how do we know there aren’t other problems out there?” We don’t.

I don’t blame you for being pissed. Me, too. It’s better when you can dislike the Packers’ quarterback or the Steelers’ quarterback, even if they’re talented.

It is a sad commentary. Like I said, we’re two peas in a pod on this one. I agree wholeheartedly.

(And I’m glad you aren’t a my-team-right-or-wrong guy.

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