Lovie Smith can't predict what the immediate national reaction would be to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafting either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota…and he doesn't need to.
Tampa Bay owns the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and thus is the only team guaranteed a shot at the player it covets the most. An opportunity of that magnitude demands an equal amount of preparation, and the Buccaneers are committed to that process. Gauging the external reaction to the pick, however, is not a particularly important part of that process.
"I just don't really know, to be truthful," said Smith, of what the reaction to the team's pick will be. "You can't make decisions based on that. We have to do what we think is best for our organization, that's going to help us win football games. I think everybody will be okay with that decision. We hope they [are]."
The internal reaction to any pick the Buccaneers make – the chemical reaction, essentially, as in team chemistry – is an important consideration. The goal is to add players who not only have elite physical skills but who can also mesh with teammates and provide leadership. This is doubly important if the Buccaneers do choose to use that pick on a quarterback like Mariota or Winston.
"Whether it's the face of the franchise or not, every player is the face of the franchise to some extent," said Smith. "We realize [it's] the quarterback and the first pick, and we've scrutinized [Winston] a lot more. But, again, looking at it the same way, we're still judging guys on whether we think they can fit in to what we're trying to do as an organization. It still comes down to that. … We feel comfortable with the guys that we're looking at for that first pick.
"From what I've seen, I think people are willing to let us go through the process and they're anxious to see what decision we make."
During his hour-long meeting with the media at the NFC Coaches' Breakfast at the league meetings in Arizona, Smith reiterated that, through its research, the team has reached a comfort level with picking either Mariota or Winston. He did concede that one player – not necessarily a quarterback – has commanded the top spot on the team's draft board.
"I look at it like a football game," said Smith. "Most games it's not a tie the entire time. There's a leader most of the time, and you have a leader. We have a leader, but you let the game play out. I've seen teams be in the lead early on and lose the game, too, so you let it all play out. That's where we are. We'll know once we go through the process, but you don't call a winner before the game is over. You go through the entire game."
Some additional thoughts from Smith during Wednesday's breakfast:
On getting to know Winston and Mariota:
"We've talked enough for me to feel comfortable with them both right now. I feel like I have a handle on who they are. We've talked a lot. We've done a lot of research."
On the possibility of trading the #1 pick:
"You have to keep your options open. If there was some kind of mega-trade that became available, you would have to consider it. But if that doesn't happen – and it's not likely that it will happen – we feel good, having the first pick to start the process, to have our choice of all these great college players. We like that position."
On the idea that Marcus Mariota showed a lack of desire to be the first overall pick in an interview conducted during his visit to One Buc Place:
"I don't buy that. I'm not one of those people who is saying that. Marcus isn't as outgoing as Jameis – very few people are – but that doesn't mean that's a bad thing. Marcus has won about as many games. He's had a great career in college. As we had a chance to get him in our building, spend time with him one-on-one, [and] he's very comfortable being in that leadership role. He has a little bit different leadership style but it's a leadership style that a lot of teams would love."
On the NFL potential of Mariota and Winston:
"It is kind of apples and oranges, maybe, for a lot of people. They both have strengths. They've both won a lot of football games. I think both guys are going to make a pretty good transition to the league."
On the Buccaneers' need to make improvements on the offensive line for a second consecutive year:
"Sometimes, lessons learned a little bit, you have to be patient when you build your team. Last year we needed offensive linemen and we made a decision that didn't work out. This year, I'll just say that we haven't addressed the offensive line and we have ways to still do that."
On Mike Glennon:
"We want to have our quarterback position be as strong as possible. Yes, if you're a veteran and you've been in the league, you can help a young player coming in a little bit more. But Mike Glennon is on our roster because we think he can play, and you need more than one good quarterback, I think, that you feel comfortable with."