For many what has seemed like years, now comes down to just 23 days, as the Buccaneers will be on the clock for one of the most important decisions in franchise history. Tampa Bay has the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since 1987 and their decision will have an impact on the organization for years to come. The Buccaneers are doing their due diligence, despite what many feel is a foregone conclusion, with Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston being the choice on April 30.
But if the Bucs have made up their mind on Winston, they are going to the extreme to still keep people guessing. On Tuesday morning, head coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht and and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter boarded a corporate jet en route to Oregon for a private workout with former Ducks star and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
Mariota had a stellar career at Oregon, culminating in leading his team to the first ever college playoff championship game against Ohio State. The shy native Hawaiian put up outstanding numbers and has impeccable character, something that no one disputes when comparing him with Winston. But questions has arisen based on the scheme win which he played in for Chip Kelly then Mark Helfrich. How soon will Mariota be ready to play? How much of his success was based on the uptempo spread concepts that the Ducks used during Mariota’s career? Part of the private workout being done by the Bucs is to answer some of those questions.
But the evaluation won’t be completed when they finish up in Oregon. The Bucs will then turn around and head to Tallahassee on Wednesday for a private workout with Winston. Without some of the character concerns with Winston, most national writers and draft experts agree Winston would easily be the easy choice. But the concerns can’t be ignored. Investing an overall No. 1 pick and millions of dollars on a player that potentially could be the face of the franchise for the next decade is something that has to be thoroughly vetted. The Bucs have spent a ton of money and hundreds of hours investigating Winston, including interviewing numerous people from Tallahassee to Bessemer, Alabama where Winston is from. So far it appears all has checked out, as Smith, Lovie and maybe more importantly – the Glazers – have all publicly stated they are fine with Winston being a future Buccaneer.
With the team attending the pro days for both players, and then having private workouts with both, the team will then start finalizing their decision on what quarterback will be leading the team next fall in Raymond James Stadium. Again, many assume the decision has already been made, and it very will could have been, but if so, the Buccaneers aren’t tipping their hand.
Twenty-three days and counting. For most Bucs fans – and probably many in the organization – it can’t come soon enough.
– Photos used inside article are courtesy of the Buccaneers
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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