Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Do You Trust Jameis Winston?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 27, 2018

Jameis Winston answers question after an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Mike McCarn/Associated Press

What to make of Jameis Winston's latest legal situation. What to feel about Greg Hardy's "second chance." What to expect from Dak Prescott's next contract. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. On Jameis Winston's future

The Buccaneers need to be asking themselves a simple question with quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly facing a three-game suspension following an NFL investigation into his alleged groping of an Uber driver in 2016. And it's one of the most important questions they have ever faced. 

Can they trust Jameis Winston?

"They shouldn't have trusted him before, and trusting him now would be an even bigger mistake," one NFC team official says.

"The chickens are coming home to roost" for the Buccaneers, an AFC team official adds.

The answer to whether the Bucs can trust Winston has the potential to shape the future of the organization for years, possibly even decades.

You think this is an exaggeration? The Chargers didn't fully recover from the selection of Ryan Leaf in 1999 until Philip Rivers became a starter in 2006. The Raiders' selection of JaMarcus Russell in 2007 left the organization rudderless until Derek Carr stabilized it seven years later. There are numerous examples of this.

Just like there are examples of what happens when a team gets it right. The Packers selected Aaron Rodgers to replace Brett Favre and, well, that worked out decently.

Trust is the warp core of a quarterback. A receiver must trust the football will be delivered to the right spot. A coach must trust a quarterback will execute the play. Linemen must trust that the quarterback called the right protection.

An organization must trust that its most important player won't allegedly grab a female driver's crotch after he steps into an Uber.

It's important to remember that Winston was one of the most controversial draft picks ever. The Bucs selected him first overall in 2015, and teams stated privately to me and others in the media at the time that they would regret it.

While at Florida State, he was accused of sexual assault and shoplifting, and he was caught on camera making vulgar comments on campus. 

At the time, several NFL teams made it clear to me that they despised Winston. I don't use that word lightly.

Some of the hatred was dog whistle-y, because some people in the NFL just don't like cocky black quarterbacks (but they don't mind cocky white ones like Johnny Manziel or Baker Mayfield). But much of it was purely about him as a person and the idea of trusting him as the face of a franchise.

And now here we are again, back at that question about trust.

We don't know for sure what happened in these situations, but we do know that Winston keeps getting into them—twice in four years. And how can a team trust someone like that?

The account from the driver, which Talal Ansari of BuzzFeed News shared in November, is harrowing to say the least. We've also seen how the account from Winston's former teammate about what happened that night has fallen apart

Winston's supporters will say the first sexual assault accusation was never proved, and the groping accusation is his word against hers.

The team has stood by him.

"The Jameis Winston that has been on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the day we drafted him has been a model in the community, a model in the locker room," co-owner Joel Glazer said at the NFL's owners meetings in Orlando, per ESPN.com's Jenna Laine. "He's the first guy in the building, the last guy to leave the building, playing through pain, with injuries most people probably wouldn't play for. So he's done everything we were drawing up on the drawing board as our quarterback and the person we drafted."

The Buccaneers appear to still trust Winston.

Would you?

Editor's Note: After publishing, ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed  that Jameis Winston has officially been suspended for the first three games of the 2018 NFL season and will not appeal. 


2. Do we have a winner of the Winston-Mariota debate?

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Buccaneers have never given a quarterback they drafted a second contract. 

Winston could break that streak, but remember something as we discuss his future: He was picked first overall, and the Titans took Marcus Mariota second. There was intense debate before that draft about which player was better, and that argument continues to this day.

Since the NFL draft began in 1967, quarterbacks have been drafted first and second overall only seven times:

In 1971, it was Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning.

In 1993, it was Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer.

In 1998, it was Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

In 1999, it was Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb.

In 2012, it was Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

In 2015, it was Winston and Mariota.

In 2016, it was Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

One of the quarterbacks often ended up being pretty good, while the other...not so much. (Goff and Wentz might break this trend.) 

We may already have a winner of the Winston-Mariota debate. We're closing in on one, at least.

Winston is coming off the better year statistically, but he also went 3-10 and is now potentially out for the beginning of the season. His future could go either way. Mariota, meanwhile, is coming off a 9-6 season, has the better career record and passer rating and has been drama-free. 


3. Bucs could start 0-3

Steve Nesius/Associated Press

Even with Winston, the Buccaneers were facing a nasty opening three games: At the Saints in Week 1 and home games against the Eagles and Steelers in Weeks 2 and 3.

If Ryan Fitzpatrick starts those games, the Bucs are almost guaranteed to start 0-3. (By the way, did you know Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?)

The Buccaneers play on the road against the Bears in Week 4, and that isn't easy, either. Chicago could be one of the NFL's most improved teams next year.

If Tampa Bay does somehow split those first four games, it could end up with 10 wins and a playoff spot. It's a shame Winston made that less likely. 


4. The No Fun League, part 7 billion

Ed Zurga/Associated Press/Associated Press

This past week featured one of the more amazing stories I've ever seen while covering the NFL.  

Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a recent medical school graduate, wanted "M.D." on his jersey, according to Canadian reporter Andy Mailly-Pressoir (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). The NFL said no.

I understand why the NFL is trying to avoid this. If the league starts allowing players to put anything other than their name on jerseys, it could get out of hand.

This seems completely different and worthy of an exception, though. One of the NFL's players became a doctor. That's so extraordinary, it's worthy of celebration.

If a player complains that he can't have the initials "JTK" on his jersey because he loves James Tiberious Kirk, well, that isn't the same thing. It's that simple.


5. Greg Hardy and his enablers still don't get it

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 12:  Greg Hardy celebrates after knocking out Austen Lane in their heavyweight bout during Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series at the TUF Gym on June 12, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/DWTNCS LLC)
Jeff Bottari/DWTNCS LLC/Getty Images

One striking thing about Robert Klemko's profile of Greg Hardy in Sports Illustrated was how similar the quotes from UFC President Dana White were to quotes I heard from NFL teams that considered signing Hardy after Carolina cut ties with him in March 2015. (The Cowboys eventually signed and then released him.) Only now, Hardy is a rising star in the UFC, not an NFL free-agent reclamation project.  

This quote from White stood out in particular: "As human beings, we're all going to make mistakes. It's how you bounce back from that. I personally think he's a changed guy. He's learned from his mistake, and he's trying to make a change in his life. I'm sure he's hit rock bottom and he had to pick himself up, and his life is where he wants it to be. People around him respect him and like him and feel he's a good teammate. So we're gonna give him this shot."

White is correct, of course. We all make mistakes. But there are mistakes, and then there is what Hardy did.

Does he deserve another chance? That's up to the UFC and fight fans.

Just don't make excuses for him. 


6. Dak Prescott setting up for new deal

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has hired a new representative from one of the most powerful agencies in the country. This means only one thing: He is gearing up for a megadeal.

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was the first to report that Prescott changed from Jeff Guerriero of ProSource Sports for Todd France of Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

Prescott is eligible for a new deal after this season, and he's going to get a huge one.

If he's thinking that changing agents will lead to a bigger payday, he's probably right.


7. Groundbreaking

The NFL announced Monday that Jocelyn Moore is its new executive vice president of communications and public affairs, which makes her the league's new public face.

This is a big deal. A huge, gigantic deal.

Moore, who's replacing Joe Lockhart, is the first African American to fill the position. She's also taking over at one of the most intense times in the history of the NFL.

President Donald Trump is using the NFL as a punching bag over players protesting various social injustices. The NFL's response to Trump has been, well, lacking.

Moore has a stellar reputation in the sport. People who know her say she's extremely intelligent and has a nimble mind.

Those are two things the NFL needs in abundance right now.


8. More CTE tragedy

Young Kwak/Associated Press

Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide in January. On Tuesday, his family revealed he had CTE.

He was 21 years old.

As researchers told the parents of Hilinski—and as they have also told me and anyone who will listen—it is virtually impossible for CTE to develop in the brain of someone so young without an outside force.

The culprit continues to look like repetitive head trauma.

This is an issue that won't go away anytime soon.


9. Player takes care of mom

We so often talk about the crappy things players do. I like to point out the great things they do, too.

Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis bought his mom a house.

Jourdan Lewis @JourdanJD

Got em a house. https://t.co/77IKK3Vs2k

Good for him, and nice job by a mom who raised a good son.


10. The Genius of Desperation

One of the best pure football books I've read in a long time comes from NFL journalist Doug Farrar (who is also a friend and colleague). It's called The Genius of Desperation: The Schematic Innovations that Made the Modern NFL.

The book is one of the best combinations of examining NFL history, innovation and the personalities that shaped the sport. The book will be on sale starting in September.  

One of my favorite parts is about how Washington's Joe Gibbs became one of the best innovators the game has ever seen. Gibbs popularized a a cutback play called the Counter TreyWashington fans will know this play welland during Gibbs' dominance, the play was almost unstoppable.

What I didn't know (or had forgotten) is how Gibbs stole the idea from Nebraska's Tom Osborne.

The book is entertaining, funny and smart. It will make you appreciate the NFL and its history. 


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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