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Mark Dominik says Bucs should draft Marcus Mariota, alludes to Josh Freeman's off-field issues

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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN recently tried to answer the question whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should draft Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota by asking a whole lot of experts. Mel Kiper, Herm Edwards, Aaron Schatz and Louis Riddick all agreed on one thing: Winston should be the pick.

But Mark Dominik didn't agree. Where everyone else seemed to think Winston's off-field issues were manageable with a good coaching staff, environment and locker room around him, Dominik emphasized that he had more confidence in Mariota fixing his issues than in Winston fixing his. He felt that "the things we want to improve or develop with Mariota are correctable, whereas the things we worry about with Winston are out of our control."

People say [Mariota]'s quiet, but I've yet to meet anybody who doesn't think he lives and breathes football. This is a quarterback I think we can trust to improve in the areas we need him to.

Winston brings all of the attributes you want in a QB on the field, including leadership. There isn't any doubt about his work ethic, either. We can take steps to build a support system around Winston, but ultimately I have no control over what he does on his own time, and he brings with him a track record of maturity and behavioral issues. I've seen firsthand the consequences to an organization when your quarterback makes poor decisions off the field.

That last sentence is especially noteworthy, because that has to be referencing Josh Freeman, who was jettisoned from the team after playing only three games in the 2013 season. That departure was dramatic and filled with some soap-opera nonsense, including leaked medical issues, a weird controversy over player voting and captaincy, and various (never substantiated) rumors about Freeman's behavior away from the team. But this is another hint that most of that divorce was caused by Freeman's behavior -- further validated by the fact that he's played in exactly one NFL game since the Bucs cut him.

The interesting part of that equation is, of course, that there are multiple people within the Bucs organization who still remember that ordeal. Including the team's owners. Will they feel that Winston carries the same risk, or do they see him as a different case? As someone who's immature, but who won't let that get in the way of his success? Ironically, Freeman had no real off-field flags entering the NFL, so even the predictive power of prior issues may not be too great.

So far, though, the Bucs have given no indication that they're bothered by what's in Winston's past. So while Dominik's concern is probably valid, it doesn't seem likely to stop the Bus from drafting Winston.