Ask Gary: Does Winston deserve an elite salary?

by Gary Shelton on April 21, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL

Winston is about to ge very wealthy./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston is about to be very wealthy./CARMEN MANDATO

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

It appears as though the Glazers, from what they are saying and doing, are hell-bent on offering a long-term, mega contract deal to Jameis Winston. Simply put, do you think Winston deserves to be one of the  five or six highest-paid players in the NFL?

Larry Beller

The quick answer is no. If you list the great players of the NFL, you won't find Winston anywhere near fifth. An quarterback ranking, at the end of the season, had him 17th among passers. Say you quibble and get him a bit higher, that's still nowhere near fifth. And that doesn't count the players of other positions .

So if the NFL were a meritocracy where all contracts were due at once, there is no way you could justify Winston being among the top five. Maybe not the top 50.

The thing is, the NFL doesn't work that way. Timing is a huge factor in contracts.  So is investment. It's why the Lions' Matt Stafford started on a $135 million contract last year. (He isn't in the top five, either).

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In the NFL, a quarterback gets paid when his contract is up before his worth is. The Bucs still like Winston, and they have a lot of time invested in him. So he'll get a big freaking contract that the team hopes he grows into.

Look, there is no reason to feel sorry for the Bucs for having to pay the money. With the revenue sharing the league has, a giant contract or two is the price of progress. The problem with Winston making this much money is that he hasn't progressed farther along as a player. But for the Bucs, and their fan base, it beats starting over with another drafted quarterback.

There are a lot of flaws to Winston's game: the turnovers, the maturity. But he hit for his highest average last. year, and I still don't see a lot of other ways for the Bucs to beat a team unless Winston plays well.

I know you're doubtful, or you wouldn't have asked the question. I've said this before: When Michael Jordan played, I never thought about how much money he was making. Joe Montana, either. Because their performance gave you other things to talk about.

Winston's going to be a wealthy man. Now, he has to be an accomplished one, too. I'd say his pay is ahead of his performance right now. I hope that isn't always the case.

MLB teams play ten times the number of regular season games (162) as compared to the NFL teams (16).   The Rays went 4-12 for their first sixteen games of the 2018 season, which would be the equivalent of the Bucs going .25-.75 for their first game of the season.

Now nobody would be overly panicked if the Bucs went .25-.75, or even 0-1 after one game.  So why all the ‘doom and gloom’ surrounding the Rays slow start?

Scott  Myers

Because it felt like a portent of what was to come. You can split up seasons (or games) any way you want, of course, but a game is a separate unit. Losing one game doesn't feel like the same sample size that 16 games feels like.

Baseball is a different sport. In football, a lot of the game depends the quarterback. Baseball has a five-man rotation, so it's really five different statements.

Mostly, though, it's about expectations. Very little was thought of this year with the Rays, and when they got off to a bad start, it just reminded us of the shortcomings we had discussed for weeks. We saw several different starting pitchers, and starting relievers, and fumble-fisted  outfielders. Sixteen games is 144 innings. It's not four quarters. It's five or so series. It's not one game.

Look, fans grumble about their teams all the time. But you can lose a game and shrug it off to a single bad break or a single powerful opponent or a single bad call. Sixteen games is the same percentage of the schedule, but that span tells you a lot more about the season to come.

Why do we feel doom and gloom? Why wait? And if the team miraculously pulls out of it, we can feel better then.

In the end, it's up to each of us to look at what has occurred and how we feel about it. But 16 units is a better size same than one, even if it's the same percentage of the season. Right?

What do you think of this new Alliance of American Football? I'm intrigued because Steve Spurrier is coaching the team in Orlando and already he's wooing Tim Tebow. The league isn't trying to compete against anyone, either. They're just trying to fill in a gap after the NFL season and maybe be a sort of minor league. Any thoughts?

Peter Kerasotis

Pete, I don't feel great about it. I don't feel great about any minor league program.

But I think the league will do okay if it can remember it's place. Remember, the USFL kind of worked for a while until Donald Trump (yeah, him) decided he wanted to go head-to-head with the NFL. The XFL was too gimmicky to catch on.

Still, we know this: Americans love football. I think if the AAF keeps in its own lane, it can work. I'm not sure that recyclable quarterbacks like Tebow are going to catch on. But if you have a healthy mix of second-chancers and up-and-comers, we'll watch. For goodness sake, we watch the underwear Olympics of the NFL Combine.

The first thing the AAF has to do is decide what kind of league it wants to be. No, the NFL isn't going to jump all over the franchise from Orlando or from Des Moines. It isn't going to compete for quarterbacks or defensive ends. It can work if a linebacker from Orlando blossoms into one who plays for, say, Jacksonville.

If the league gets in a hurry, it will be like jumping off a cliff. But if it stays true to its vision, it can work. Players like Johnny Manziel or Vince Young could use another way to keep their careers alive. In that case, it could be kind of entertaining to see.

(Peter is a long-time Florida sports columnist, a buddy of mine, and the author of several books. His latest is Felipe Alou My Baseball Journey which was released on April 1. He'd grin if you bought one.)
While covering the Olympics, you must have interviewed those that lost as well as those that won. Is there one interview of an athlete that didn't win, or didn't win the medal expected, that stands out as the toughest interview - tough because of the lost chance, the lost hope, the lost dream?

Cecil DeBald

The first guy I think of is Eric Namesnik, a swimmer. And on a lot of days, he was the best i.m. swimmer on earth. In a lot of smaller matches, he would beat Michigan teammate Tom Dolan regularly.

But on the biggest stage, like the Olympic finals, Dolan would come through with a huge performance to win.

I remember in Atlanta. Namesnik won the qualifying, but in the finals, he lost to Dolan. He was disconsolate, weeping, calling himself a loser. I've never seen a guy taking losing harder.

He walked outside to the warmup pool, and he sat against a chicken-wire fence, still crying. Other swimmers would come up and say kind things, but he would shrug them off. I remember another writer trying to ask him a question, and I stared at him. "Isn't this scene better than anything he could say?" It was like staring at a chest hole after a guy has ripped his own heart out.

Another moving moment happened in Barcelona when Ron Karnaugh couldn't get over his defeat. There was a reason. His father had a heart attack and died in the Opening Ceremonies. Still, I remember the crack in his voice as he expressed his disappointment. I remember his clear blue eyes as he fingered his late father's straw hat.

I remember Emile Griffith, the boxer. He was hard-pressed to figure out why he lost. He struggled, I remember, to spell the name of his daughter. I've seen runners blame the starting gun. I've seen basketball players blame their coaches.

There is a difficulty to watching an athlete in such a moment. He trains for years for that one moment, and it slips away in a finger-snap. It's a raw moment, but it's real. And it's one of the reasons I love the Games.

How would you gauge the Tampa Bay area fan support for our local sports teams over the past 15-20 years? Obviously, support for a particular team is huge in the first few years of existence and then during championship seasons (and the year following)--but, in a general sense, do you see it having grown, diminished, or stayed the same? I don't frequent that many games in person but I wonder if there are fewer northern team jerseys at Rays, Lightning, and Bucs games now versus back in those years. I hope so.
Barry McDowell
I've thought a lot about what kind of market we are. And I've pretty much came up with this: I think we're three markets.
With hockey, which has it going on, Tampa Bay has it going on. The Lightning always sells out. I don't quite believe some of those sellout numbers (fans of popular teams always seem to find tickets), but the gate has responded to the efforts of owner Jeff Vinik.
With baseball, I've often thought the fan base let the Rays down as much as the Rays let the fans down these days. The good seasons of the Rays didn't move the needle nearly enough as far as attendance. If a team wins, and the fans still don't come, it's alarming.
Then there is football, where my sense is that the fans keep hoping. During the good days of the Bucs, you couldn't buy a ticket. There were huge waitlists to buy season tickets (those guys must have run when their number came up). I think if the Bucs could ever turn it around and have another nice era, the fans would come back despite the cost, despite the heat.
Overall, I think we're a second-level market. There are some places like St. Louis or Green Bay, where fans are going to show up when they open the gates. I don't think we're that kind of market. But we're hopeful. We want our teams to win, and we'll follow them (on T.V.) loyally if they do.
I have not been able to get excited about the Rays, especially now with K.K. injured yet again.   I still feel that Sternberg has his eye on the exit and is saving money to buy his way out of the lease.  Please convince me that I am wrong.
Jim Willson
Here's what I would say: For all the players the Rays got rid of in the off-season, the payroll is slightly up from last year. That has to count for something.
If this were truly a payroll dump, a serious one, I don't think Hechavarria would be back. I don't think Archer would be here. I don't think Ramos would be here.  Kiermaier would still be here, because he's the new face of the franchise, but in all honestly, I think there were some more corners the team could have cut. In a baseball sense, I think they cut enough, but not if they were being real cheapskates like Hugh Culverhouse or Art Williams (former Tampa Bay owners).
As far as the future, I think the Rays are content to play things out because of their contract. I think they'd like a stadium in Tampa. Soon, however, they're going to start to look around. That's the way the game is played.
I think it would take a poor businessman not to have discussed options of what happens if the Ybor City site falls through, or if Tampa doesn't come up with the money. So I don't doubt that leaving Tampa Bay may be an end game. But I don't think it's one yet.
Here's what gives me pause. If you and I owned a team in Tampa Bay, would we consider a move? Of course we would. So why wouldn't Sternberg and his partners as soon as they can live with the buyout from their lease.
I'm not saying not to worry. I'm saying to be aware, and to know that if you allow the Rays to leave (which some voters are in favor of), baseball isn't coming back.
Gruden is back in Oakland, and he seems to me to be building the team the same as he always did, with more emphasis on older players, tried and true. They were 6-10 last season, how will the "new-old" Raiders do this season?

Cecil DeBald

The Raiders were 6-10 last year, and I don't know how much they've helped themselves so far. I'm not quite sure what Gruden is doing; he used to be very impressed with the data on a players' football card.

I've always liked Jordy Nelson. But I don't think Doug Martin is very good. Maybe he'll flourish as a backup to to Marshawn Lynch.

I know this: Gruden works pretty quick. Remember that first year with the Bucs? Granted, the Bucs were pretty good. They were a playoff team; not a 6-10 team.

I've always said that I think Gruden is a pretty good X's and O's guy. I thought he would take six-win level teams and coach them to 9 wins.

But I never thought he was good at building a team. His time with Bruce Allen was embarrassing, and the team got worse all the time.

Are the Raiders better in the front office. After all, for $100 million,  you can't expect everything.

Do you think the Bucs will tweak their uniforms anytime soon?
Jim Willson
The idea scares me. Maybe the team puts a large drawing of Captain Fear on its shoulders. Maybe a little pitch with the number of seasons since the team won a playoff game.
I'll be honest: I like the pewter-and-red color scheme, but I think there is too much going on with those uniforms. I'd simplify. I'd reduce the size of the helmet sticker. I'd go with plain red jerseys, and plain white ones. But I'm old, and I'm grumpy, and I'm stuck in the past. I like basic.
But, you know, there is nothing about the jerseys that bothers me except that they aren't in the end zone more. If this team can win, who am I to judge a fashion show. It's like the days of the old orange unis; as long as the team is winning, no one is going to talk about it.
When would they change? Maybe if they have a new coach in 2019? Maybe if there is a new movement to rally behind.
And maybe, just maybe, it would come to celebrate a playoff win.
Now, that would look good on the players, wouldn't it?



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