Controversy surrounds latest Seahawks pick: Kellen Winslow Jr.

May 24, 2012

"Talented, but arrogant."

That's how KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel describes the player the Seahawks traded for this week.

Kellen Winslow Jr. is an outspoken tight end from Tampa Bay. And Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks he can 'fix him.'

Prone to controversy

Art says there's no disputing that Winslow is talented. And the Seahawks were looking for someone like him to fill the void left by John Carlson, who signed with Minnesota when he became a free agent.

"Kellen Winslow is the guy I would say fits the profile of the classic entitled athlete. He knows he's good. And everybody else around him soon learns that he knows he's good. He has done a number of things that have caused a lot of consternation with teammates, coaches and fans."

Art points out a few examples of those problems:

Winslow courted danger by riding a motorcycle in the offseason - an activity prohibited by the NFL.  He was in a serious accident and nearly died. His recovery took him away from the game for a time.

His coach in Tampa Bay was angry at him for not showing up to a voluntary practice.

And, Winslow has had enough injuries to his knees that some of his coaches have held him out of practices to save him for games.

"It just adds to the tension and drama around the guy that most coaches would find annoying and most coaches would want to do without. But Pete Carroll says 'this guy's got a lot of talent and we're not risking much.'"

High talent, low risk

Because of all this baggage, the Seahawks didn't have to give up much to get Winslow. They traded with Tampa Bay for a conditional draft choice next year. It will either be a seventh-round pick or, if Winslow does really well this season, a sixth-round pick. 

And the money he's scheduled to earn this season ($3.3 million) is not guaranteed. So, if he doesn't make the final roster when the Seahawks begin play, they're not out any money. Art says that's good news, but:

"The problem is that Pete Carroll, like most coaches - Mike Holmgren was a big one on this - think they can fix guys. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But this whole sort of Father Flanagan deal, I am always skeptical about with coaches because some of these habits are ingrained."

In the shadow of his father

Kellen Winslow Jr. is the father of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr., who played for the San Diego Chargers. Winslow Sr. this week called the Seahawks a 'good fit' for his son, as reported by the website SB Nation Seattle.

Art says Winslow Jr. is talented like his dad, but much more aware of it.

"His son is a much more, I guess, arrogant guy than dad was. And it's just put people off a lot. I think what's going to have to happen is that Winslow - at age 29 - is going to have to recognize his physical limits and that he's being given what probably amounts to a last chance. Sometimes that induces humility in athletes. Sometimes guys can't get over it."

Ghost of Jerramy Stevens

Art says Pete Carroll isn't the first Seahawks coach to think he can fix a troubled player. Former coach Mike Holmgren thought the same thing about a few of his players - most notably Jerramy Stevens. But that didn't work out so well.

"Stevens was a former University of Washington star that Holmgren thought he could fix. Stevens was a great contributor; he was the tight end on the Super Bowl team. But he had so much baggage - run-ins with the law, DUIs, missed practices, dubious behavior in the community - all these sorts of things piled up. And they finally got rid of him. He's never straightened himself out and has washed out of football despite enormous talent."

There is an eerie similarity between Stevens and Winslow. Stevens often angered the neighbors of his Bellevue condominium with his late night parties and the mess they left behind. This was documented in a story by Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur in 2007.

Winslow is being sued for allegedly trashing a house he rented in California. That was reported this week by the San Diego Union Tribune. Winslow's attorney calls the lawsuit a "shakedown of a professional athlete."

Time will tell

Will Winslow be able to put the past behind him and let his talent shine through? Art is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"Those are the kinds of risks that Carroll is taking. And it really won't manifest until after Winslow gets done with practice and the exhibition season and we'll see what kind of guy he turns out to be once the season starts."

Latest controversial addition to Seahawks roster

The Seahawks’ trade for Winslow comes just weeks after they drafted another controversial player – defensive end Bruce Irvin.  His talent has been overshadowed in the past by some run-ins with the law. We have a link to Art's commentary on Irvin at the bottom of this post.

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.