clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Buccaneers want "alpha male" quarterback

New, comments
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

With two weeks until the draft, Jameis Winston continues to be the likely number one pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And in his latest Fab 5 column, Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds lays out a number of reasons why.

Reynolds notes that the Bucs believe Winston's story regarding the rape accusation. Which is simply further confirmation that the team doesn't see any real off-field problems with the Florida State quarterback and will likely take him number one overall. That's not unexpected given the way the team has publicly talked about Winston, and the report that they won't let yesterday's civil suit affect their decision.

More interesting to me is that Pewter Report runs through a list of narrative reasons why Winston is the quarterback the Buccaneers should pick, and that the main point where they cite the Bucs' opinions is Winston's personality.

The team puts a tremendous amount of weight on the personal interviews with quarterbacks because that player is the leader of the offense and the leader of the team.

The Bucs didn't draft a quarterback last year because they couldn't find the right match between personality and game film. Tampa Bay would have passed on Central Florida's Blake Bortles had he been there with the seventh overall pick because he didn't come across a "take-charge" personality kind of guy.

Tampa Bay wants an alpha male quarterback with a type-A personality under center and in the huddle. After Licht and director of player personnel Jon Robinson spent time with Brady in New England, that's the type of poised, charismatic leader they are looking for.

This is a classic form of familiarity heuristic: this is how they've seen successful quarterbacks act personally, so that's what they believe is important -- regardless of whether or not it actually is important. We've seen plenty of quiet quarterbacks have success with Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, Teddy Bridgewater and even Joe Montana coming to mind. And we've seen plenty of "alpha male" quarterbacks fail as well -- just look at, say, Johnny Manziel, Jake Locker or Tim Tebow.

But this stereotype conforms to a long-standing NFL narrative. It's why Tiki Barber complained about Eli Manning's personality a year before the quarterback led the Giants to the Super Bowl. Leadership comes in many different forms, and the brash, shout-y form of leadership we've mythologized is far from the only effective one -- and it's a kind of leadership that can often backfire, as can quiet leadership. Ultimately, all leadership stands or falls with performance on the field, not with a player's personality.

It's similar to the "clutch" narrative -- the idea that some players naturally perform better under pressure, and that they can replicate this consistently. Statistical analysis in baseball, with large sample sizes, has long since demolished that myth, but it continues to rule among NFL minds -- including perhaps those of Bucs executives, as Pewter Report also cites Winston's ability to win close games as another reason to draft him.

Close games are undoubtedly the most exciting part of football. There's nothing quite like seeing your quarterback march down the field and find his favorite receiver in the end zone in the final seconds, and the Bucs have seen that happen plenty of times -- to them, that is. But while that's exciting, it's certainly not the best way to win games: the best way is to blow out opponents early, and to cruise to victory. Boring, but a lot more reliable than having to march down the field in a two-minute warning every time. Heck, the Bucs had a quarterback who did that fairly consistently in Josh Freeman -- still didn't help them all that much.

Those kinds of narratives have been around for as long as I can remember, and they'll probably be around for a lot longer. But there's really no evidence that those narratives are useful heuristics, which makes it maddening when my favorite team trots them out to make their decisions. That's not to say that Winston isn't the 'right' choice -- I do think he's the better quarterback. But those narratives aren't why.