With all that has emerged surrounding Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston, it’s time to get some things off my chest.
I’ve said it before, but for those that are unaware, I took a little while to come around on Jameis Winston. I remember distinctly walking in to a bar to meet up with some friends for the Ohio State/Alabama game following Oregon’s win over the Seminoles, dancing from the minute I set foot inside while singing Marcus Mariota‘s name.
I was all in.
Then I started doing film study for the site I worked for at the time. My goal was to make cases for either player – Mariota or Winston – to be the number one pick. How they performed in college, how they’d fit with the Buccaneers, strengths, weaknesses, etc. I walked away from that little project blown away with what I saw from Winston. At that point, I was 100% sold on the fact that Winston was the better football player and the right fit for the Bucs from a talent standpoint.
But there were the off field issues.
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The more I dove in to the issues Winston had at Florida State, the more I was able to discern what was exaggerated, what was harmless, and what was stupidity and immaturity that would likely go unnoticed had he not been a National Champion quarterback.
But there were sexual assault allegations.
At the end of the day, no one knows what really happened that night. There is enough information out there to find out whether you think there was enough evidence to take Winston to court, enough doubt cast on the character of the accuser to believe it was for attention, or somewhere in the middle. Every one is going to have their opinion and in today’s society it doesn’t matter the facts – the court of public opinion convicts or exonerates anyone long before the courts do.
Now we have the Uber case.
We have conflicting stories from all parties involved. You have a driver saying she was alone in the car with Winston, you have Ronald Darby saying he was in the backseat of the car with Winston while a third passenger rode up front, and you have that third person – a person convicted of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated rape – saying he and Darby put Winston in the front seat because he was “intoxicate and ‘unruly'” at a nightclub.
After all the smoke clears. After the NFL issues its ruling and punishment. After Winston issues what is sure to be a statement “from” him but more than likely written and fine tuned by the Buccaneers’ PR staff. After all that, we still have one thing left to look at: Jameis Winston.
I said it on the Locked On Bucs podcast and I stand by it. How much longer are we going to defend and make excuses for Winston? How much longer until we look at these incidents – no matter how silly or how serious – and realize that the finger needs to be pointed in his direction to grow up?
I’ve been firmly planted in Winston’s corner for a long time now. I’m still in his corner. I would like nothing more than to have the NFL come out and say, “look, we found enough evidence to believe that Winston was not involved in what he was accused of. We are suspending him because we hold our players to a higher standard and he put himself in a very precarious position. We hope that this punishment helps him realize he needs to make better decisions.”
But that’s not what’s going to happen.
We aren’t going to know what happened that night. We are going to have small snippets of information that we, ourselves, have to put together like a puzzle to form our own conclusions. Spoiler alert: Winston supporters will think he’s innocent, the court of public opinion and Winston haters will think he’s guilty.
Jameis Winston in 2018 is paying for the mistakes of Jameis Winston in 2016. Whether he did this or not, there is a common theme; when Winston is around his friends, especially Ronald Darby, he makes very very poor decisions.
Maybe this incident was the final straw for Winston. Maybe this was the final kick in the butt he needed to realize he can’t continue down this path. Maybe expecting his first child will give him that kick. Maybe the thought of losing out on millions of dollars, disappointing a franchise that placed their trust in him, breaking the hearts of a fan base that has never witnessed a franchise quarterback, losing the trust of his teammates, and facing being run out of the league has woken him up.
Maybe it’s a combination of all of them.
At the end of the day, it’s on Winston. It’s up to Winston to surround himself with better people that want the best for him. That see the path he’s gone down and the mistakes he’s made. It’s up to Winston to rid himself of poor influences and yes men. You are the company you keep and the company we see Winston keeping isn’t great.
This is what it means to stop putting yourself in these situations. This is what it means to accept responsibility and grow up. This is what it means to put the past behind you and move forward, learning from the past and growing from it. This is what Winston has to do.
I’m rooting for the guy. I’m not going to run him out of town. I’m not going to call for his release, to be traded, or to not see a second contract. I want him to display signs of maturity, growth, and the understanding that this can’t continue. He can’t keep having his name linked to scandals and accusations. This has to be the end of it. This incident was two years ago and maybe he has grown, has learned, and has matured. A person only gets so many chances.
One has to think that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will tell – or have already told – Winston that he’s on his last.