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  1. Bucs

Why Jameis Winston won’t be able to outplay this

LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets teammates at the door to the locker room before an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets teammates at the door to the locker room before an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.
Published Jun. 29, 2018|Updated Jun. 30, 2018

Twice in the past week, I've called upon the Bucs to get rid of Jameis Winston. His horrible actions in an Uber in March 2016 are just the most recent example of bad decision-making from a guy who seems incapable of making good decisions.

So two things about this: I still feel strongly that the Glazers should get rid of Winston. And, second, I would be stunned if that actually happens.

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I fully expect Winston to be under center when the Bucs play the Bears in Week 4 on Sept. 30.

The Bucs are in the business of winning football games and, as of this moment, Winston still gives them the best chance to do that. They would rather win with a sleazy quarterback than lose with a good guy.

Right now, they don't have a better option on the field, so they're willing to overlook what has happened off the field.

The Glazers, as owners of the team, are trying to sell tickets. General manager Jason Licht is trying to keep his job. Coach Dirk Koetter is just trying to score touchdowns. It's in all of their best interests to keep Winston, even if they have to hold their noses while doing so.

Basically, it comes down to this: The Bucs hope they can survive the public relations hit long enough for Winston to outplay his troubles.

Just like Ray Lewis. Just like Ben Roethlisberger. Just like Kobe Bryant.

All three were involved in ugly controversies that could have landed them in jail and certainly left their reputations in shambles. All three should have been let go by their teams, but none were. And on the surface, fans of those teams would argue those teams made the right decisions.

After their troubles, Lewis and Bryant won championships. Roethlisberger played for one and could end up playing for more.

But here's the thing. Those controversies have not gone away. Not completely. We haven't forgotten.

We still talk about whether or not Lewis was involved in a murder. We still wonder if Roethlisberger forced himself on someone. We still wonder about the time Bryant was accused of rape.

In fact, in recent days, some Tampa Bay fans have used Lewis, Roethlisberger and Bryant as examples of players who got second chances and, seemingly, made the most of them. But just using them as examples proves their unseemly pasts have not disappeared.

Even fans of the Ravens, Steelers and Lakers must have cringed knowing their teams' successes were in large part due to bad dudes.

It will be interesting to see how Bucs fans respond to Winston. The reaction I've received through email and social media has been mixed. Some want him gone, especially after Thursday when the three-game suspension became official and the NFL and Winston released statements that made it clear something horrible occurred in that Uber.

But plenty of fans want Winston to stay.

Many continue to defend the 24-year-old or make excuses for him. They claim Winston hasn't done anything serious enough to warrant being cut.
And other fans are simply looking at it as a football issue. They see Winston as the best option at quarterback. Those fans say they are tired of losing.

They say that if the Bucs got rid of Winston, the team would sink to the bottom of the league again. They say they would rather win with a shady quarterback than be the Cleveland Browns.

That's usually when you hear someone bring up Roethlisberger's name.
But just because the Steelers sent a horrible message by keeping a blockhead such as Roethlisberger that shouldn't be the reason the Bucs keep Winston.

Because even if he stays and the Bucs go on to win a Super Bowl, it doesn't change what has happened. It doesn't suddenly make Winston a good person. It doesn't mean the Bucs should be absolved for overlooking serious issues in the pursuit of a champion­ship.

In other words, Winston can't outplay his checkered past.

For the rest of his career, no matter how many touchdowns he throws and how many games he wins, Winston will not be able to make people totally forget his past. It will always be there. So will the Bucs' decision to keep him.

The rest of the country sees Winston as nothing but trouble. That's why you're never going to see him doing commercials for Subway or Pepsi or Ford or any other product. What does that tell you?

The only people who are sticking up for him at this point are Bucs and/or Florida State fans. And their motives aren't based on what's right or wrong.

Their motives are about football.

Which is what is motivating the Bucs right now.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones

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