TAMPA — It's just another season in Candy Land. Jameis Winston and his hot mess are taxiing onto the tarmac, ready to take flight as the biggest quarterback disaster in Bucs history, which is saying a lot.
Maybe that could change, but don't use Bucs history as your guide.
We live in the Cradle of Quarterback Curses.
Few franchises have as sordid a QB history. Why, just the other day, I was talking to the granddaddy of them all, the Tigris and Euphrates of Bucs quarterback curses himself, Doug Williams, who left here amid a contract dispute with Bucs hobgoblin owner Hugh Culverhouse, only to end up winning a Super Bowl for Washington.
Williams is now senior vice president of player personnel for Washington, which plays here in two weeks, so naturally he doesn't like talking about Bucs quarterback history. But he does admit to the eternal mystery of it all.
"I wish I knew," Williams said. "All I can say is I started in Tampa and didn't end there."
There are shafts of sunlight (Super Bowl winner Brad Johnson being at the head of the class), but the Bucs quarterback abyss is a densely populated area, ever since Steve Spurrier took the first snaps in that inaugural 0-14 nightmare.
Stinging indictment: No Bucs starting quarterback has ever earned a second contract with the team. And they're not exactly printing money in a basement for Winston's next deal.
It appears that he has been kicked to the curb, which points to another Bucs debacle, taking down all hands on deck, while at the same time hinting that the party could just be getting started
We hearken to Vinny Testaverde, another Heisman Trophy winner who went No. 1 overall, but receded into the mists in Tampa Bay, which included 35 interceptions in his second season, only to play 21 years in the NFL, throwing for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns.
That's the thing about this cradle. Yes, it is filled starters you don't want to say around open food: Randy Hedberg, Jerry Golsteyn and Jack Thompson, just to name three. But it's the ones who flopped here and rose majestically elsewhere who stick in Bucs fans' craws.
The Bucs lead the planet in boomerang babies.
Like Williams, who ended up on a Wheaties box.
Like Steve Young, who was miscast here as a drop-back passer and was traded for two draft picks — and who went on to become a Super Bowl winner and Hall of Famer.
Like Trent Dilfer. A first-round pick (sixth overall), who took the Bucs to the playoffs, but who eventually was set adrift by the Bucs after the 1999 season — and won the Super Bowl with Baltimore the following season, here in Tampa no less.
I could throw in Chris Chandler, who played here, then ended up with Atlanta, which he helped take to the Super Bowl.
The bad outweighs the boomerangs. Let's not forget former Bucs first-rounder Josh Freeman, who threw for 25 TDs against just six picks one season, who threw for 4,000 yards another season, then disappeared. Freeman is 30 and out of football.
So where does Winston fit in?
He's not Gary Huff, Mike Rae or Jeff Carlson. Nor is he Shaun King (NFC title game), Brian Griese or Jeff Garcia (playoff teams). And it should be noted that Winston still owns a spleen (see Simms, Christopher)
It should also be noted that a lot of lousy Bucs quarterbacks went on to be lousy somewhere else.
So where does Winston fit in?
Will the Bucs ever regret that he got away? I think he'll play a long NFL career, but I just can't see him holding the Lombardi Trophy. I think he's the haunted, not the haunter.
But I could be wrong.
And the cradle gently rocks.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029.