Winston breaks cliche mold with 'Greatest Ever' expectations

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston participates in an OTA practice session at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, June 1, 2017. (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)
Caption
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston participates in an OTA practice session at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, June 1, 2017. (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

Credit: Loren Elliott

Credit: Loren Elliott

True confession: I tried hard to think of the downside of Jameis Winston proclaiming he wants to be the "greatest of all-time" someday.

Surely this is an ego malfunction. A good thought gone bad in the practical context. Too much pressure, and anybody can spring a leak.

But you can't climb a mountain if you're content hanging around base camp with everybody else not fit for the journey.

Jameis is all in on Jameis. And that's a great thing.

"Ultimately I want to be the greatest of all time, one day," Winston told the NFL Network recently. "That has to be your goal. People always say 'that'll never happen' but I don't know that'll never happen until I'm done. So I'm going to do anything that I can to be great."

Those are mighty big words for a kid who, at 23, is just entering his third season in the NFL. He has thrown only 1,102 passes in his brief career, with 50 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

To compare and contrast, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has thrown 8,224 passes in his career, with 456 TDs and 152 interceptions. I'm not suggesting Tommy Boy is the best ever, but he's definitely in the conversation.

And he obviously provides a solid measuring stick for the work that lies ahead for Winston in Tampa Bay. And Jameis is definitely "chopping wood" as goes the mantra in the NFL, over at One Buc Place.

"(I want to) be better than last year," Winston said. "And after that, be better the next year."

Everything points to a natural progression — and a nice uptick — on the field, especially now that Winston has a few more talented guys to play pitch-and-catch with in 2017. Meet Winston's new friends, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end O.J. Howard.

There is potential for an implosion. There always is. For Winston, that likely points to an off-the-field misadventure.

But Winston has done nothing to give his critics bullets to load into the chamber since his rocky career at Florida State. His history in Tallahassee includes serious circumstances (rape allegation but no charges) and silly circumstances (Google "Winston" and "crab legs.").

There was a slipup during a pep talk to kids last February that was construed as wildly sexist by some. "The ladies, sit down. But all my boys, stand up," Winston told a group of fifth-graders. "We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right?"

It wasn't a good look, made worse by Winston's past at FSU. But Winston immediately owned up to his faux pas.

Instead of shying away at Tampa Bay, Winston has stepped up and firmly cast himself as a follow-the-leader kind of player. He is the face of the franchise and will be for another decade or so assuming there are no hiccups.

He will be ratings gold as we shift into the preseason, and HBO starts airing "Hard Knocks, set to debut Aug. 8. Winston has already agreed to give the HBO cameras a bit of extra access into his world.

Winston is always going to get a mix of cheers and jeers, arguably for a long time. Some people can't forgive and forget his transgressions at FSU. Others have moved on long ago.

All Winston can do is look forward, and that's exactly what he's doing by marking that bulls-eye on his No. 3 jersey. Some may call it ego and cockiness gone array. I prefer to call it honesty.

NFL locker rooms are full of boring cliches, a "one game at a time," mumbo-jumbo of nothing. Jameis Winston has something to say, and it is significant.

Sometimes when you crave the spotlight it can burn you. Or it can shine a light that makes you look even more impressive.

We're about to find out with Jameis Winston. Let's tune in, and watch what happens.