Tony Dungy Discusses Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, NFL Helmet Rule

It's better for Baker Mayfield to play, but it might be better for the Browns if he sits

Tiki and Tierney
October 30, 2018 - 9:15 am

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Tony Dungy dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday to discuss numerous topics, including Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston and the NFL’s new helmet rule.

We’ll start with Mayfield, who would love to be under center for the Browns in Week 1 against Pittsburgh. Hue Jackson, however, has named Tyrod Taylor the starter. 

Ultimately, is it better for Mayfield to play or sit as a rookie?

“The best thing for the player, for the quarterback, is to play, to get out there and play and experience and grow. He’s going to be better off in the long run,” Dungy said in studio on Tiki and Tierney. “That’s not always the best thing for the team.”

Indeed, Mayfield is yet to play a snap in the NFL. Taylor, meanwhile, helped the Bills reach the playoffs last year for the first time since 1999. 

Jackson, it is worth noting, is 1-31 in Cleveland. He needs to win. Now.

“It depends on where you are,” Dungy acknowledged. “Peyton Manning went to Indy, he’s going to be the quarterback of the future, they started him from day one, he played every play, he set a record for interceptions by a quarterback, they only won three games – they struggled. But two years later, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in football and it benefited him. 

“If you’re Hue Jackson, though, and you’ve only won one game in the last two years, can you go through that?” Dungy continued. “Or do you have to say, ‘I’ve got to play Tyrod Taylor so we start winning a little bit. I know it’s better for Mayfield if he plays, but do we want another three-win year? Maybe that’s not the right thing to do for the team.’ You have to try to balance that.”

Moving from the AFC North to the NFC South, Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first three games of the year for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. 

Dungy has some advice for the 24-year-old: make better decisions.

“You have to understand that you are in a fishbowl, and you’ve got to make good decisions,” he said. “I used to tell my players all the time: we got 53 guys; 52 of you do great things. if one guy does the wrong thing, we’re all bad. It’s the same thing with your live individually: 364 days, you can do great things; one day you do the wrong thing, that’s what people remember. So don't be the guy who does that one wrong thing one time to reflect on the other (52). Jameis does a lot of great things, but you got to be smart, you got to make good decisions, you got to be responsible. And unfortunately, that goes with the territory. You can say it’s not fair, but it is the territory.”

Tiki Barber wondered if Winston – who has been no stranger to controversy – will ever get back in the public’s good graces.

“It’s going to take him a while,” Dungy said. “If this was the first incident, then you say, ‘Yeah, it’ll come back.’ But this isn’t the first incident. In spite of all the other good things and the things we see him do around the city, you can’t have three or four (episodes). People just say, ‘Here we go again.’ It’ll come back, but it’s going to take a while.”

Finally, Dungy weighed in on the NFL’s new helmet rule, which discourages players from leading with their helmets. While improving player safety is a worthwhile goal, interpreting this rule will be difficult for players and referees alike.

“Interpretation is the whole thing,” Dungy said. “I absolutely think we need to be safer, protect the players. But I think they’ve got to bring intent into it. The NFL never wants to talk about intent, but to me, we all know the difference between a guy trying to spear someone and someone unintentionally hitting someone with their helmet. I think officials could make that determination. I think it’s going to be a mess to start.”