Asking again: Is Winston the right man for the Bucs?

by Gary Shelton on April 14, 2015 · 2 comments

in general

Tuesday, 8:16 p.m.

Now  that you have braced for them to zig, might they zag?

Now that you are ready for them to razzle, might they dazzle?

Not that you are ready for them to anoint this quarterback as the future, might they anoint that one?

With the Bucs, the mysterious smarter-than-the-world Bucs, anything is possible.

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For weeks now, we have prepared for the Bucs to draft FSU quarterback Jameis Winston. He is so expected to be a Buc that you expect the stores to start selling his jersey any day. Already, you are prepared to compare his first season to Josh Freeman, Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde in their first seasons.

But what if they don’t?

What if it’s all a double-reverse?

It is the NFL draft, so all arguments go in a circle. With Winston, there are still the same questions you asked in January, only it's time they were asked again. A franchise needs a quarterback. Is this the one it trusts?

I know, I know. The Bucs have said glowing things about Winston. But the truth is, they have also said glowing things about Marcus Mariota. I am sure if you ask the Bucs about Bryce Petty, or Tom Petty for that matter, they would have wonderful things to say. That what’s team do in the spring. They praise everybody. If Akili Smith decided he was going back into the draft, the Bucs would say wonderful things.

So what if it’s Mariota?

Ron Jaworski thinks it is. Old Ron Jaws, who I once covered when he was with the Dolphins, says he’s talked to several scouts who think the Bucs are going to take Mariota. Of course, those scouts don’t know, either, because the Bucs aren’t talking. They’re good at not talking.

Mike Mayock, who is pretty good at this, has moved Mariota ahead of Winston in his ratings, too.

You could certainly make an argument for Mariota. Look, I’ve said it myself. The ball doesn’t leave his hand the same way it leaves the hand of Winston. There is no arguing that. He doesn’t run as much of a pro-style attack.

On the other hand, you don’t have be afraid of a 2 a.m. telephone call when he’s your quarterback. Yeah, Mariota is kind of dull, but so is Lovie Smith, for that matter. They’re a lot more alike than Smith and Winston. Then there is the Tony Dungy factor. Dungy is a big fan of Mariota, and he’s a close friend of Smith.

Could it happen? Sure it could. No one with the Bucs has said if the team is privately bothered by his interceptions, or by his indiscretions. Winston's own advisor said he wasn't ready for the NFL; is he ready to lead a franchise that doesn't seem to be ready, either?

Don’t forget. There was a draft when Jamarcus Russell had better grades than anyone. And one where E.J. Manuel was the top quarterback taken. One where Vince Young was the top rated quarterback. One where David Carr was the top-rated quarterback. There is a high miss factor on these guys. Unless the surroundings are right, the teammates are right, the quarterback is right, a team is rolling dice uphill.

Yes, a lot of this would be true if Winston had never been accused a crime. But he has been. That doesn’t get erased. Winston is about to become the face of a team. Is that team comfortable with the notion?

Ask yourself: What are the odds of Winston making in through the next 10-12 years without a controversy? That’s the gamble here. You not only need for Winston to be a good player, you need for him to be a good guy. If you aren’t ready to fight that battle in the name of the franchise, you might as well pick elsewhere.

No, I don’t like the trading down option. I might if there was a great offensive line prospect, an Anthony Munoz or an Orlando Pace. Or if there was a great defensive end prospect, a Bruce Smith or a Simeon Rice. But what I see in the latter stages of the top 10 are pretty good players, not franchise makers.

Given that, I still think the smart money is on taking a quarterback. Probably, that’s Winston.

But it isn't as sure a bet as the fans make it sound like it is. Deep down, none of us have any idea what Lovie is thinking. I'm not sure Lovie's wife knows what he is thinking. The whole compoud is locked down to the point you need a straw to breathe.

What it comes down to is this: Courage and conviction. Do the Bucs have the guts to take Winston? Do they have the guts to pass on him?

Either way, it’s going to be a risky pick.

I still say they take him. But if you think you’re sure, don’t be.

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