I took part in a very interesting debate yesterday that centered around just how much blame athletes deserve when they screw up. The bulk of the conversation started and centered on Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
As you know by now, Winston has been suspended for the first two quarters of tomorrow’s game against ACC rival Clemson. The suspension was the result of Winston climbing atop a table in the FSU student union and then yelling a very popular yet obscene phrase.
With Winston as the backdrop, the question ultimately that was raised was this; Why are college athletes held to this higher standard than the rest of their peers?
For example, if a biology major at Florida State had done the exact same thing that Winston did, what would have been the response? Would he have been suspended from FSU? Kicked out? Arrested? Fined?
Would anyone have even cared?
The discussion went further and perhaps to the real heart of the matter when I posed the question, “Is it Jameis Winston’s fault for his behavior or is because of what society has allowed college athletes to become?”
The easy answer is that Winston is a 20-year old college student who should know better and yes, it is his fault but why is there so much emphasis placed upon one 20-year old student and not others?
The answer is that we have allowed these athletes to be placed on pedestals well above their peers at colleges and universities across the country. It might not be Jamies Winston’s fault that everyone has high expectations from the starting quarterback but let’s not be mistaken here. Winston and Johnny Manziel and Peyton Manning and Matt Leinart and so on knew what they were signing up for.
But shouldn’t Winston know better? How many more stupid decisions is he going to make before he finally gets it?
ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. has already said he expects Winston to fall should he enter the draft simply because teams are afraid of his poor decision-making. I saw another NFL draft guru who spoke with two NFL scouts. They both said as of right now, they wouldn’t touch him in the draft simply because of the headaches.
There’s a lot of time between now and the draft and if you recall Winston’s father says his son will play one more season at Florida State anyway. I’ll believe that when I see it but either way, Winston needs to mature for any number of reasons. His maturity needs to match his ability because right now, fair or not, that’s what is expected of him.
On another topic before I go… I’ve seen some criticism of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota that I don’t know that I’m buying. One of the critical comments centered around whether he has the ‘fire’ to be a great NFL quarterback. So at a time we hear of college players who need to tone it down, we now have someone saying a top QB isn’t ‘excited enough.’
The other criticism is that he may be too long and lean and won’t be able to stand up to the roughness of the NFL. Much of this has come this week in light of yet another injury to Robert Griffin III.
Listen, there’s no perfect quarterback and Mariota won’t be perfect either but I’m not being these critical comments. There have been plenty of quarterbacks who have succeeded without being rah-rah type players. As for his body type, he’s a much better passer than RGIII at this stage in my opinion and I honestly don’t think you’ll see him doing a lot of read-option at the pro level anyway.
Let’s let him get through his season before we start criticizing too much.