The Bucs are convinced they can finally give their opponents a headache.
Thursday night, they believe, they finally drafted a real quarterback. They finally brought in an arm. They finally picked a guy who can turn a close loss into a close win.
Others, however, wonder if they have signed up for their own headache.
That’s the thing about the NFL. Nothing is completely comfortable, and nothing stays there for long. Maybe you worry about the character of Jameis Winston, the FSU quarterback who was their choice. Maybe you worry about his controversies. Maybe you worry about him as an investment.
So whose headache is Winston? The Bucs? Or the opponents? Over the next few seasons, we will see. Either Winston will become a player who will help lead the Bucs to a turnaround, or he will live up to the concerns of his off-the-field controversies.
This is what taking a hotshot prospect is like. You worry about all the things that can go wrong. You worry about the past can’t-miss guys who did. You worry about those who lacked the drive, those who lacked the hunger, those who lacked the instincts, those who lacked the character.
Know this: No matter how strongly you believe in Winston today, there are those who are not sold. For every cheer, there is a doubt. For everyone who sees an answer, there are those who have a question.
You worry about his controversies. You worry about his commitment. You worry about his maturity. You worry about the fame. You worry about the fortune. You worry if the Bucs picked the right guy. You worry about the hangers-on. You worry about JaMarcus Russell. You worry about David Carr. You worry about Vinny Testaverde and the others who have failed as No. 1 picks. You worry if the Bucs will be able to build around him.
In other words, you worry about everything, because what else can a Bucs fan do? You worry about a space station falling on his head. You worry about the interceptions he threw and the ones he almost threw. Most of all, you worry about the Sundays to come.
All of this is not unique to Winston, of course. No matter which quarterback the Bucs took first, you would have a great many of these questions. But accusations of sexual assault don’t go away like an old scrape on the elbow, either. Even now, there are those who wonder what the Bucs have signed on for.
“I was in the same situation,” Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith said when asked what he would say to a fan who still has doubts. “I didn’t know him. I would just ask our fans to give him a chance. We’ve done a lot of research. We want what’s best for our team. There is a certain type of guy we’re going to bring in. Don’t have any preconceived opinions about him. Let’s let him show us who he is, as a man and as a football player.
“I’m pretty confident. We wouldn’t have made the selection if we didn’t feel pretty good about that. There are no guarantees in life for any of us, but I feel comfortable. ”
General manager Jason Licht, too, signed off on Winston as a person.
“If he wasn’t a good guy, we wouldn’t have used the first pick on him,” Licht said. “He won us over. He won a lot of people over in this building and around the league. There was something Derrick Brooks said. “You just have to have some time. Give him time and let him prove himself to everyone.”
With a No. 1 pick, with a quarterback, there are always things to prove. Too many teams have failed, often because they did not build enough of a support system around him. Too many players fall into the trap of making too many mistakes, a concern that Winston will bring with him to the Bucs.
But the bigger concerns with Winston are about his issues off the field, especially the accusations of sexual abuse. No charges were brought, although a civil suit is in its infancy.
Winston said Thursday night that he had been cleared of wrongdoing “six times” in that incident, although no one is quite sure of his math. For the most part, however, he declined to “talk about anything negative.” Even when he was asked why he thought many players failed, Winston talked about his hard work and how he stresses “positives.”
“I think he’s a good football player, a good person,” said Smith. “I know there have been a lot of things said about him. He’s made some mistakes that young players make from time to time when they’re young. But I just really believe in him. I trust my instincts to know who we’re getting.”
What are they getting? They’re getting a strong-armed pocket passer who plays well under pressure, a quarterback who is ready made for the NFL game. But Winston is joining a bad offense that struggled running the ball and blocking anyone.
Winston will wear No. 3 for the Bucs. No, Smith said he is not on the lookout for a veteran to act as a guide for him.
No, Licht said, it wasn’t like Christmas. It was like his wedding day. That pretty much describes the bond. Together, they will succeed, or together, they will fail. The expectations are that high.
“He’s a champion,” Licht said. “He’s a leader. He’s a winner. He’s got tremendous football character and tremendous intelligence and work ethic.”
For now, Bucs’ fans would like to believe that he is also someone who can change the future of a franchise. Risk and all.