The Buccaneers have their franchise guy in Jameis Winston. While many have known for some time and I was certain Winston would be the pick back in January, TheBayCave.com was receiving info since last October of Tampa Bay’s interest in the Florida State product.
Now the Bucs have been scouting Winston, like other prospects, for quite some time. But this timeline is based on TBC’s knowledge of the eventual selection that started with public knowledge of general manager Jason Licht attending the FSU game in Louisville.
October 30, 2014
The day that several outside the organization started following their every move as Licht was in the press box in Louisville, KY with several scouts watching Jameis Winston.
November 5, 2014
The Bucs had their quarterbacks ranked early on in the process, putting Oregon’s Marcus Mariota behind Winston and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.
December 16, 2014
The media was deep into the character assassination of Jameis Winston at this point. I received a tip from a Bucs source saying the team’s initial thoughts were that the transgressions were being overblown. Reached out to some folks to get info on the crab leg incident, the vulgarity slip, among other things and wrote an article on BucsBlitz.com detailing some info.
December 28, 2014
Before the season finale, general manager Jason Licht raved about the talent that comes out of Florida State in a pre-game interview on the Buccaneers Radio Network. When asked about Winston, he chuckled and said there are lots of talent at FSU. Licht also said their draft board “was set.”
That evening, a source told me that the board is complete. When asked where Winston was as far as ranking, the source replied saying “He’s on there. So that’s a start.” Hinting that Winston — although their highest ranked quarterback — was not their highest ranked player at the time.
December 29, 2014
During his end of season press conference, head coach Lovie Smith said this within his response to a question regarding his opinion on read-option quarterbacks: “Eventually most read-option quarterbacks get hurt.”
December 31, 2014
TBC was told Smith was pretty much the only one to have yet to see Winston in person and was the “only one left” that needed to be convinced of his talents. Smith and Co. flew out to the Rose Bowl to see Winston and the Seminoles as they took on Oregon.
January 5, 2015
I learned Smith was extremely impressed with Winston’s performance at the Rose Bowl. The same source also confirmed the teams concerns with Mariota’s play on the field, which now included Smith.
January 20, 2015
Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager drops a nugget saying that his sources are telling him the concerns many across the league have in Mariota’s style of play. He then tied Winston to the Bucs based on his intel. (Sound familiar?)
February 10, 2015
I tweeted a screenshot of a text message conversation I was having with someone that confirmed a report on ESPN blog that came out after my conversation. The text was referencing a conversation I had with someone close to Lovie Smith that told me Smith “really likes Winston.”
That same day, TBC learned the Bucs were not going to consider trading the top pick.
February 25, 2015
Florida State’s head football coach said on NFL Network that the Bucs have been in contact with his staff.
February 27, 2015
A national report came out regarding “sponsors” at One Buc Place for Mariota. While it was true, TBC learned the decision makers — Licht and Smith with blessings from the Glazers — were all in for Winston.
March 3, 2015
An under the radar visit was made by Winston and the team, led by general manager Jason Licht, took him on a tour of One Buc Place. Winston had breakfast that morning with head coach Lovie Smith and Licht later said Winston confirmed all the beliefs they had of him.
March 12, 2015
A small group of Bucs attended Mariota’s Pro Day. The group did not include Lovie Smith.
March 31, 2015
Winston’s Pro Day. Smith attended. As well as almost every staff member and scout on their payroll.
April 4, 2015
TBC learned that a prominent voice within the Buccaneers organization took Winston out to dinner the evening of his visit.
April 9, 2015
This was an interesting day.
I received a tip that Winston was on a flight from Tallahassee to Tampa. I reached out to the Bucs and was told he was in town for something not related to the team. Later on that afternoon, I was told he was in town to shoot a special segment with a local television station. In the evening, we then saw he was in town for a charity event through the weekend hosted by former Buccaneer Mike Alstott. It was that Thursday evening TheBayCave.com learned Winston got the “head nod” he was looking for on being the pick. That sealed the deal for me.
Throughout the day, TBC learned from a Bucs source following Mariota’s workout that the team was going to decide on their selection well before the draft and had a scheduled team meeting for the following Monday to decide on the pick officially. Smith went into the meeting with a greater appreciation for Winston, according to a source.
April 13, 2015
Reports started coming out that Mariota would be the pick. But as I stated above, the team would hold a meeting regarding the pick. April 13 was that Monday. A source told TheBayCave.com that the team plants misleading information to see who says what. Basically, the Bucs trolled those who ran with it. The pick was believed to be agreed upon by then.
April 26, 2015
Winston was back in town for yet another charity event. This time it was for Derrick Brooks’ charity. Many from the Bucs were also in attendance.
April 29, 2015
A team source told me Bucs informed players of their selection.
April 30, 2015
Draft day. That morning I received a message from another Bucs source confirming my report from the previous afternoon. This time, the source revealed three specific players who were aware of the selection — two of which were offensive weapons.
Later on that evening, as we now know, Winston was officially selected first overall by the Buccaneers (who had a jersey and their website staff already on hand ready to go in Alabama).
NOTE: Quotes from the combine and owner’s meetings where Licht, Smith, and the Glazers all said they were “comfortable” with Winston were left out of the timeline intentionally since they were widely reported.