TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on Jameis Winston to help them become relevant again.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was selected with the first overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, instantly becoming the face of a franchise that missed the playoffs the past seven seasons and hasn’t won a postseason game since the club’s Super Bowl run in 2002.

Coach Lovie Smith and Jason Licht made the call, concluding after months of interviews and exhaustive research that Winston not only can be the answer to the team’s offensive woes, but that the 21-year-old has learned from off-the-field mistakes that threatened to undermine his stock in the draft.

In selecting Winston, the 2013 Heisman winner who a former Florida State student said sexually assaulted her though he said the sex was consensual and was never charged or arrested, the Bucs passed on 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The Oregon standout was the other quarterback under consideration for the top pick.

Winston was not in Chicago for the NFL draft, he was in his hometown of Bessemer, Alabama, with family and friends.

Licht insisted the team, while impressed with both Winston and Mariota, would wait until the last minute to finalize its decision in case another club stepped up offering a trade he and Smith couldn’t refuse.

The Bucs are coming off a 2-14 season, in which they posted their worst record in 28 years and finished last in the NFC South for the fourth straight year.



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