Greg Schiano is a control freak. And that's the major explanation, at least in my mind, for why you trade a productive tight end like Kellen Winslow for something so paltry as a seventh-round draft choice, which the Bucs did Monday in dealing him to Seattle: The new coach doubted he was going to be able to control Winslow.
The Bucs are rewriting the rules of their program under Schiano. A friend of mine at Rutgers once told me Schiano was an acquired taste; he was insistent, for instance, that team meetings at road hotels be held with the room at a precise temperature. I forget what the temperature was. But that was the depth of his detail work. There's nothing particularly wrong with that. It's just that it's not for everyone.
The Bucs jettisoned Winslow and signed veteran Dallas Clark on Monday, which, obviously, is a calculated risk on their part. Clark, who will be 33 this season, played 48 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps in the last two seasons because of injuries. Winslow plays this year at 29; he played 82 percent of the Bucs' snaps in 2010 and '11. But I think the Bucs chose to go with Clark -- at half the price, but also with more of an injury risk -- because Clark will be more compliant. You won't see him jaw with Josh Freeman on the sidelines during games, which Winslow did.
I'm sure the Bucs view Clark as more of a mentor for young Luke Stocker. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs' new offensive coordinator -- Mike Sullivan, who came from the Giants -- had bad memories of Jeremy Shockey's at-times combative run with the Giants and didn't want to see history repeat itself, potentially, with Winslow in Tampa. Winslow's former coach, Butch Davis, on the Bucs' staff now, drafted Winslow in Cleveland in '04. He must have had some input with Schiano.
I give Winslow tremendous credit over the last three years in Tampa Bay. When he was dealt from Cleveland, I was convinced he'd end up missing big chunks of time because of his injury history. He didn't. Winslow was a plus for the Bucs, and he played well. But I just think Schiano looked at everything -- his contract, his occasional churlishness, and how he (Schiano) knew he'd be coaching this team -- and decided he'd like the alternative of Clark over Winslow.
Before I get to your e-mail, let me tell you what really surprised me in your batch of letters to me Monday: You -- or at least those of you who wrote in -- are more on the side of the Saints than Drew Brees' in the contract brouhaha keeping Brees away from the team in their offseason practices. Let's hear from you.
A CONTRACT HAS TO BE ABOUT THE FUTURE, NOT THE PAST.
Very well-reasoned points, Mike. My four points in response: 1. If you're not going to judge Brees based on his superior performance of the last six years, given the fact that he still seems to be in a quarterback's prime age at 33, what are you going to judge him on?
2. There is nothing to suggest his skills are declining, and the last time the Saints signed him, they got him for, relatively speaking, about 70 cents on the dollar compared to the other great quarterbacks of his day.
3. You forget one fact with the Brady comparison -- Brady missed a year, and Brees missed a game, over the last six years. So Brady, through no fault of his own, gave the Patriots five top seasons for $74 million. Brees gave the Saints six top years for $60 million.
4. Brees, along with Sean Payton, lifted a team coming off a 3-13 season in '05 to instant respectability and the NFC title game in his first season, and kept the Saints contenders. The Patriots and Colts were division champs entering '06 -- in large part due to the play of Brady and Peyton Manning -- but the point is New Orleans had a tougher road, immediately, to travel to get good.
You make a good point that you have to pay a player for what he will contribute, not what he has contributed. But history is the best measure of what the future holds with quarterback play (when quarterbacks still have prime years left), and I believe a younger Brees, signing 20 months after Brady should eclipse Brady's $18 million average, and not by a little bit. As far as me not being objective, well, I've been accused of being Brady's biggest cheerleader, which comes with the turf. But I'm calling this one the way I see it.
A NEW ORLEANS FAN IS FRUSTRATED WITH BREES.
It's still the negotiation season, Jay. Nine weeks 'til training camp starts. The story's not final yet. Players don't have to sign the tender when they get it; that's always been the rule. But this story is a long way from being over. I would put the odds of Brees sitting out due to a contract dispute this year at about 20-1.
TOM THINKS I'M MISSING THE POINT ON BREES.
Tom, it's a logical argument, except when you say a quarterback who is every bit the peer of Manning and Brady should be paid $3 million less per year than they are. Brady took less than the market after winning two Super Bowls. But he's been the exception. You're paid relative to the other players at your position. Jahri Evans didn't take 30 percent less than the best guards make when he was deemed the best guard in football a couple of years ago.
THE SYSTEM HELPED BREES.
Amazing how so many people don't believe Brees should get his fair-market value. Stuns me. Do you think Brady's success is due so much to the system that he shouldn't be paid $18 million a year? Or that Peyton Manning wasn't helped by the system he played in? Since the beginning of time in modern sports, the contracts of players at a certain position are based, in large part, by what the other players at their positions have made. By that measure, Brees deserves to be paid more than the Patriots paid Brady almost two years ago, and more than what the Broncos are paying a medically questionable Manning this year. As for Rodgers and Eli Manning, we'll see what they deserve. They haven't accomplished, statistically, what Brees has yet. But they might.
JIM DOESN'T TRUST VILMA.
I look forward to hearing some definitive evidence about what the league has on Vilma, which I believe will come during this appeals process. Then we can all make judgments about whether we're playing word games with Vilma, or whether there's a real evidential story there. I've said from the start that the league knew when it put Vilma's name out there in the first place that it would be a saber-rattling blow to his career and his reputation, and the league has to have some pretty damning evidence to have done that. I'd just like to know what the evidence is.
HOLLER ALL YOU WANT AT GRADUATION, SAYS THIS TEACHER.
Thanks, Jo. I guess I've been to a few of these ceremonies -- going back to middle school in New Jersey -- and I don't know why, but I grit my teeth at parents losing their minds. Not my cup of tea. But I trust you to have a more qualified opinion on this than I, having been in the field for a long time and seeing the accomplishments of so many.
ANDY THINKS WE'RE TOO SOFT ON NFL RETIREES.
Consider your voice heard, Andy. This is a tough topic. Fans get attached to players, and when they struggle in retirement, fans feel for them. But I understand your sentiment. We're going to have to cover this topic a good bit over the next couple of years, I assume, because of the fact that more than 2,000 former players are suing the NFL as we speak.
NICE WORDS FROM JAKE.
I really appreciate that, Jake. The column is a labor of love. Thanks so much for reading.