Ask Gary: How will Bucs fare without Winston?

by Gary Shelton on June 23, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

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If the recent reports are true, it’s looking more likely than ever that Winston is going to be suspended for the first few games this season. The Bucs will be heavy underdogs in their first three games regardless, so how much impact will the suspension really have in your opinion if it does happen?

Larry Beller

Larry, that's a good point. The Bucs look to be heavy underdogs in each of their first three games no matter who the quarterback is. Without Winston, they become even more of an underdog, but they wouldn't have been close regardless.

But, yes, they would have had more of a shot with Winston than without him. He's the kind of quarterback who can have a great day -- even when his team is outmanned -- and keep his team close going into the fourth quarter. He's a wild-card player, and the Bucs have more of a chance of an upset with him in the lineup.

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If you'll remember, he threw a touchdown pass to beat the New Orleans Saints on the final day of last season. Philadelphia looks solid, but some Super Bowl champions suffer from slumps the following season. The Steelers look like they'll be without Le'Veon Bell early in the season.

With Winston, I'd think the Bucs might upset one of the three. That's not great, but a 1-2 record gives a team a fighting chance. At 0-3, the season can turn into a runaway train.

So say the Bucs were 10-point underdogs (a lot in the NFL) in each game. I'd say this makes them a 12-point underdog (a lot plus two). It's worse than it was, but it's like adding a couple of boulders to the avalanche. The result will probably be the same.

To me, the question is how Winston turns things around once he comes back. That isn't always easy, you know?

With all the promotion soccer is getting... Is anyone actually watching it?

Richard Kinning

Yes, they are. There are a lot of people who love soccer in this country, and they're very loyal. Stop into a soccer-oriented bar sometimes, and you'll be impressed with the party that is going on.

According to Soccer Talk, there is an average of 3.7 million viewers watching per game. Supposedly, that includes a 44 percent dip from 2014. The switch from ESPN to Fox is responsible, evidently.

It also hurts that the U.S. team isn't in it, and the early starting times don't help.

Again, though, this is the most popular sport in the world.  The one World Cup I covered was a delight; so many fans of so many nations.

The telecasts will pick up momentum, and a lot of us will get into the games when it reaches the latter rounds.

I'm really bothered by what Phil Mickelson did at the U.S. Open, striking a moving ball. I understand that breaking that rule likely benefited him over letting that ball continue to roll. But golf is supposed to be a gentleman's game. What do you think? Were Mickelson's actions in breaking the rules to benefit himself justified?

Peter Kerasotis

No, they weren't. A cheater's explanations never satisfy me. Michelson, by his own admission, cheated because he thought a two-stroke penalty was preferable to continuing the chaos. So why should he benefit?

You know what it reminds me of? Late in Derek Jeter's career, he had a pitch come in on his hands. Replays later showed that pitch never got close to him. It bounced off the bat handle. But Jeter broke into Death of Salesman. He had the trainer look at it, and he acted like it might be broken. He took first base, even though he was aware it never hit him.

Cheating is cheating. You don't have to cork a bat or a cut a baseball.

Golf, once, was indeed a gentleman's game. I fear that was before the money got silly. Large amounts of cash seem to shrink the brain.

When I covered the Masters, there was a line about Phil and his fake smile. He wasn't like Jack Nicklaus, who always seemed glad to see the writers he knew. It was genuine.

I know there has been a lot of debate over Mickelson, but the honorable thing to do was to disqualify himself and bow out at that point. He's highly regarded, and at this point of his career, that's more important than whatever paltry check he was in line for in this event..

There have been 20 MLB World Series since 1998, the year that the number of teams expanded to 30. Twelve different teams have won during that time.  If this trend continues, it will take 50 years before each team has won at least once.

There have been 21 NFL Super Bowls since 1998.  12 different teams have won during that time.  If this trend continues, it will take 56 years before each team has won at least once.

There have been 20 NFL Stanley Cup series since 1998.  11 different teams have won during that time.  If this trend continues, it will take 56 years before each team has won at least once.

There have been 21 NFL NBA championship series since 1998.  10 different teams have won during that time.  If this trend continues, it will take 63 years before each team has won at least once.

How are fans of most teams able to maintain a strong interest in their teams with the chance of the ultimate prize being so small?

Scott Myers

The truth is that a lot of sports fans will never see their teams win a championship. The odds are simply stacked against it.

But I think fans watch not for championships, but for the hopes of a championship. I think fans want their teams to matter, and to be in the hunt. They want to be among the elite. Sure, they want a championship, but I don't think that's why they turn on the television every week.

The major sporting leagues of America sell hope, you know? I've been reading articles from across the NFL, and you'd think that 32 teams are going to be in the playoff hunt. We know better, of course, but that's what the league pitches. It isn't far off in other leagues, either.

Here in Tampa, as you know, the Bucs are still talking about their Super Bowl win, and it's been almost 16 years.  The Bills never won one, but going to four in short order was an accomplishment. In other words, a title can last for a long time in sports.

With those odds, of course, it has to.

While I am not a big baseball fan, I do see the Rays at the Trop at least once a year. I am, however, a fan of well-run organizations, especially sports organizations. You can tell when an organization is being run well. There are tell-tale signs. For example, your GM and coach have long term deals and the scouting departments have systems that create top scouts. This shows up in consistently good drafts which result in the team finishing with a better record each year. In Tampa, it happened with the Bucs, Rays, and Lightning.

You can watch this happen in any sport except baseball. The Rays were beneficiary of very team friendly deals by key players.

In baseball things are different. Without a salary cap the rich teams take advantage of the poor teams and outbid them for talent. That does not take a good GM or scouting department; it just takes deep wallets.

Not too long ago the Rays had a team salary of $50 million; 1 New York pitcher was paid $45 million. How does a small market team compete with that?

Small market teams seem happy to put out a team that is much less than it could be. Owning a MLB franchise
is the best annuity you can have. Far too many small market owners treat it that way and they expect the fans to stick around.
There are many ways to fix this. But you cannot fix something you won't admit is a problem.

Imagine MLB with a salary cap.

Richard Kinning

Richard, I've imagined it often. One of the things that the NFL and NHL have (and even the NBA) is such a salary cap. It gives a team in Green Bay the same chance of winning as one in New York. Money tends to make a general manager more comfortable; he can swallow the mistake of a big contract.

Remember this: A lot of dollars doesn't give you a lot of sense. What limited funds do in baseball is make a team be smarter. During the Rays' heyday, that was the reason the team won. But it makes it essential that the team hits on its draft picks. The Rays haven't always done that, which has made reloading harder.

The NFL has grown lopsided. A lot of it now is about a quarterback and a head coach. The best combinations usually win the most often.

A smart general manager is an asset. But there are few so smart that they can put their teams on mini-runs. That's the reason a lot of Super Bowl teams suffer from slumps the following season. The Bucs were a prime example of that; they couldn't deal with winning.

But you're right. You have to be smart, and you have to be talented, to win. Success is usually fleeting, but it takes some doing even to get it to stop by.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 23, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Yes I do believe you are 100% correct and it’s very likely he will be overcome this latest problem. I’m sure there were tons of Steeler fans who swore they would never feel the same about Big Ben and wanted him out when he was in trouble with the law. How many of those folks eventually forgave him? Most of them I’m guessing.

I believe today’s Times article about the second Uber ride suggests that he was in a drunken stupor that night and most likely did what he is accused of. The fact that he didn’t report the incident is a lessor issue now. I don’t think that will change much of how people view him though because some will forgive him no matter what and others have wanted him out from the beginning.

The Glaziers, the coaching staff, and most of the players will all point to what a great guy and hard worker he is, blah, blah, blah. But you and I know his secret which really isn’t a secret anymore. He’s a mean drunk and needs to admit that. If the Glaziers were smart they would put some language in his next contract that relates to his drinking.

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Gary Shelton June 24, 2018 at 12:13 am

History says you’re right. He needs to stay home nights. He needs to vow off the nightlife. He needs to grow up.

At this point, though, that’s a lot to ask.

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Larry Beller June 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

You make a good point about how effective will Winston be in turning things around when he comes back. Will he have some rust? Will he need a game or 2 before he gets his game back? The season would be totally lost if that happens. Again a lot of this depends on how optimistic you are about the team’s chances in the first place. He’s shown the ability to put these matters behind him and still play well in the past but this could be different. He’s let a ton of people down.

If we can believe the story in today’s Times about a second Uber details are starting to emerge about what may have really happened that night. A narrative is starting to form about Winston. This is a good guy until he starts drinking. Then his personality dramatically changes. Remember that the alleged rape incident started at a bar. He’s not the first to have this problem but it was so well hidden that nobody has ever talked about it. The Bucs job is to keep him sober and on the straight and narrow from here on out. If the Steelers can rehabilitate Big Ben then the Bucs should be able to figure this out with Winston. Some people will never look at him the same way but I’m feeling he will get past this and continue his career as a Buc unless there is another drunken incident.

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Gary Shelton June 23, 2018 at 10:59 am

I agree completely. I’m the child of an alcoholic (one reason I don’t drink), and I know the damage it can do.

I’ll be honest. I’m not upset at Winston getting some free crab claws or singing a profane rap lyric or making a speaking mistake to school kids. I am upset at the times he’s derailed himself with booze.

As I understand, this suspension may be about his failure to report the incident with Uber. If he can divert the attention to that, some will believe him more.

Can Winston overcome this. Yes, (and this sound wrong on the surface, but stick with me) if he’s good enough on the field. Americans love to forgive successful athletes for their transgressions. Ben Roethlisberger was accused of horrible behavior. At Tennessee, Peyton Manning was. Brett Favre had his problems.

I think there is enough fog over what happened and what he’s pleading guilty for that he’ll have a chance to get beyond this, whether he should or not. But I trust him less, and I believe him less. t’s going to take some rebuilding, don’t you thihk?

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