Jameis Winston and Lovie Smith...

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Because of the noise of the galloping hoofs of his stallions, The tumult of his chariots, and the rumbling of his wheels, The fathers have not turned back for their children, Because of the limpness of their hands...  - Jeremiah 47:3

The biggest name in the NFL draft this year is Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston is no Andrew Luck golden boy. He brings some baggage including a civil suit alleging sexual assault (authorities declined to file criminal charges), some pranks and tirades, and conviction a year ago for stealing crab legs from a Publix.

Naturally, then, NFL general managers and coaches are scrutinizing Winston. After last year's tsunami of criminal charges causing the season of shame that came to a fitting end with Darth Hoodie winning the Super Bowl, no one wants to bring a Johnny Manziel into their locker room. And since the Tampa Bay Bucs have the first draft pick this year, it's Tampa Bay's GM Jason Licht and Head Coach Lovie Smith who have been spending time and money looking into Winston's character.

Lovie's been around for 19 NFL drafts and he says he's never seen the level of investigation of a player that Winston is being put through. GM Licht reports the Bucs have talked to...

100 people about Winston:

We've gotten to know people in his community, his hometown, the surrounding towns, his high school, the Florida State campus, the football program, the baseball program, every coach in both sports, every trainer who has been around him, everyone who has been close to him and people who have just been around him that maybe he doesn't know we've talked to.

I'm reading this through pastors' eyes, and while allowing for the deep bankroll NFL GMs have to work with, pastoral search committees could learn a lot from the Bucs conscientiousness.

A couple days ago I was talking with the former senior minister of a tall-steeple church and I told him I'd watched the process of selecting his replacement some time ago and came to the realization that the most serious commitment of search committees is usually to agree upon which parts of Scripture their next pastor must not talk about and then find a man willing to scratch the church's ears precisely there. If it's a tall-steeple church and the year is 2015, a foreign (preferably British) accent and some degree beyond the pedestrian Masters of Divinity along with a prenuptial agreement to be silent on sexuality (except to condemn homosexual marriage) is the sweet spot just now. Truthfully, though, this has been the sweet spot for decades.

I'm wondering if Lovie Smith is telling Licht to feel out Winston on the subject of the read option? If so they may have a deal. Will Winston agree to give up the read option? And when he does the count and gives post-game interviews, can he adopt a British accent?

But back to the Bucs and their Head Coach Lovie Smith: reading Lovie's description of how he leads his men is heart-warming and convicting:

I've prided myself on having relationships with my players, knowing what's going on with each guy's life. I'm a nosey head coach. Brian Urlacher will tell you, Lovie was always in my business. Yes, I was. I'm going to counsel them to make better decisions, like I did with my sons. I consider all of them my sons a little bit.

May God help those of us He's called to serve his church as pastors and elders to become as fatherly and nosey in our work as Lovie. In fact, we should hire Lovie to head a pastors college where future pastors are trained to be coaches rather than academics, shepherds rather than disembodied brains, lovers of men rather than lovers of ourselves, locker room preachers rather than pulpit lecturers.

Finally, Lovie uses an expression not allowed anywhere else today, and certainly not in discussions of the qualifications for the pastoral office. Lovie is speaking of the sort of leader needed among the players in the locker room, and he says this about the persons chosen as team captain:

You have to have real men. Those captains we select, it's more than the coin toss. There is responsibility with that. We have a good locker room.

Now you will understand why I have taken up reading about and watching sports the past fifteen years. For ill and good, it is the last bastion of fatherhood and sonship, of responsible manhood. Imagine hearing any discussion like the quotes above during an ordination examination on the floor of any presbytery in this country.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!