Friday, May 1, 2015

Due Diligence Versus Plausible Deniability

Last night in the NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the number one pick.  This was not really a surprise since it's what everyone expected from the time it was said that Tampa Bay would have the first pick.  There is no question (or little question) that Winston can play and can be a franchise quarterback.  The issue has always been his off the field behavior.

Lots of scouts and other retired executives have said they wouldn't take him number one because of the off the field issues, and since he would be the face of the franchise that risk is even greater.  They weighed the risks as being greater than the reward.  And I think you could easily say that had he not been a quarterback that his draft stock, because of those issues, would have been a lot lower (although Florida State and others probably would not have tolerated as much either, or enabled him the way they did).  But the Bucs considered the risk to be smaller than the reward, and everyone kept saying, including the team, that they "did their due diligence" in checking out his background.

Except, it doesn't appear that they did.  Outside the Lines reported on several occasions that NO team from the NFL, or the NFL league office itself ever contacted the district attorney in Tallahassee to talk with him about the rape investigation.  Someone from Tampa did briefly talk to an assistant DA, but that incident was never brought up.  I never heard anyone ask if they talked with the Tallahassee or Florida State Police departments, although I'm guessing that if they did it was only cursory. Winston's former high school coach, who said that Winston needs a tight, strict environment, said that he had meetings in person with several NFL teams lasting as long as 4 hours, but only had a phone conversation with the Bucs and it was less than an hour.

Lovie Smith, the coach of Tampa Bay, said they choose him because they didn't see a "pattern" of negative behavior.  Smith and the Bucs might be the only people who haven't seen a pattern of behavior.  And it really makes me think, contrary to what they said, and what the media repeats, that they didn't do their due diligence, because they didn't want to.  They wanted Jameis Winston and they didn't want anything to derail that, and so what they did was enough to make it look like they did their work, but not enough so that if something comes out later they can say "we didn't know, he fooled us" and have plausible deniability.

I truly hope that Jameis Winston is the quarterback that everyone thinks he can be on and off the field, most importantly for his own sake.  But with what the NFL just went through last year you would also expect that the team and the league would do a better job in their investigations. But it doesn't appear that's happening, because plausible deniability is always easier and simpler than doing the job the right way in the first place.

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