Yes, I have issues with Jameis Winston.
One of the things I pride myself on is unapologetically letting those who read what I write (thanks mom) know how I feel about anything in sports.
This topic of Jameis Winston, however, gave me a lot of trouble because what I am essentially admitting to you is I have a problem, personally, with an individual I’ve never met. That is a hard thing for me to admit; especially when I am a firm believer in knowing the man before forming an opinion.
I don’t need anyone to tell me what I already know about Winston on the field: he’s a very good pocket passer (no matter how much I look at the tape to see otherwise), he’s got a very good arm (no matter how much I want that not to be true), he’s an accurate passer (no matter how much I don’t want to see it), and his football intelligence is off the charts (no matter how much I look for evidence of blown reads/coverages). He does make dumb decisions, a common trait when you have a strong arm (hence the 18 interceptions last season). He’s not winning any foot races; but I’ve known that since the first time I saw him play at Florida State. I guess what I’m telling you is overall, athletically, if Tampa Bay were looking to draft a Quarterback number one there is arguably no real reason Jameis Winston shouldn’t be taken at that position.
So what are my issues? Everything that comes with those gifts off the field.
For months we’ve seen the endless cycle of bad NFL news when it comes to, among other things, domestic abuse. I’ve written on the institutional leadership issues of Roger Goodell and the NCAA ad nauseam when it comes to their roles in properly guiding these institutions. So forgive me for seeing a chain of bad behavior from Winston in college and not feeling great about hailing him as the first pick in the NFL draft; which feels to me like excusing bad behavior the NFL has taken decades to get under control yet still can’t figure out how to because it hurts their bottom line.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of players/coaches from all sports the past few years; I will never forget meeting a recent number one overall NFL draft pick (I’ll let you figure out who it is) during a weekend event I worked in Las Vegas. The impression he left on me was so bad I couldn’t possibly justify ever rooting for him no matter the circumstance. Was he having a bad weekend? Possibly; but to see how he conducted himself compared to others that weekend (Julius Erving, Tony Gonzalez, etc.) irked me like no other. Now in this instance I have a real gripe because I met this person. Spoke with this person.
I’ve never met or spoken to Jameis Winston, so I should not have this negative bias towards him personally or professionally. Yet it’s there.
This is a dilemma. A big part of me can’t help but be upset over the allowances afforded him at Florida State to get to this point practically unscathed. Another part of me says people make mistakes, you don’t know him or even if any of the criminal allegations against him have merit. Get over yourself.
Get over yourself.
I don’t have to care for Winston personally (and I still don’t). I don’t even think he’s the best player in this draft (USC’s Leonard Williams is that guy, people). What I will say is this is a real problem across sports and sports writing/blogging. How far do YOU, the reader, really want us (me) to go down that moral road? Is it necessary before the fact? Before a guy like Winston becomes the number one pick and is now, possibly, a role model for your kids? Or would you like me to tell you, simply, that he is the best prospect if your team is looking for a Quarterback in this years draft and leave the moral part out of it?
I’ll answer that last question for you: I’m not going to leave the moral part out of it. It’s important and should be placed as high, if not higher, than the metrics we evaluate for players. That isn’t going to be the case for everyone, though. I understand that, which is why despite what I think of him off the field he will, barring setbacks, be the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft despite my issues. Athletically at the position he should be.
I guess we will find out if it is that way in other facets with time.