Specifically, the pattern of Winston's message to NFL clubs about his off-field behavior, beginning with the high-intensity interviews that commence this week at the NFL Scouting Combine and continuing through subsequent interviews prior to the April 30-May 2 draft, had better be consistent. If it's not, the GM told USA Today, Winston could end up under the same cloud of doubt that Manziel did.
"His message to us was not consistent last year -- what he said at the combine, and not just (what he said) but his actions," the GM said of Manziel. "When you say you're going to make football the main thing, then you're going to the baseball game with the Hooters girl, there's a lot of things with that situation. So you just have to be diligent in your approach in really following people and making sure that it all matches up."
The points at which Winston could be asked to re-address questions ranging from a sexual assault allegation that is now more than two years old to his theft of approximately $32 in seafood from a Tallahassee, Fla., grocer, could come at any time with NFL personnel executives. Following the combine, he'll be interviewed again when FSU holds its pro-day event, but NFL clubs will be arranging for Winston to visit their facilities prior to the draft, as well. Winston's family, friends, and anyone else who can provide insight into his true character can expect to be interviewed, as well.
And if Winston's message isn't the right one -- not only in Indianapolis, but consistently through the next couple of months -- his draft stock could suffer as a result. Manziel slipped to the No. 22 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns last year.
As the GM told USA Today, if a bad pattern emerges now, there is no reason to think it won't continue.
"I know just myself in college and high school, I could be good for a period of time," the GM said. "But between now and the draft, if there's a little bit of indecision or discrepancy as to whether he's doing the right or wrong thing, this is the most important, critical time of their lives at this stage, it's definitely a red flag."
Winston meets with the media Thursday.
And it should be his easiest interview of the week.