Oct 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws a pass against the California Golden Bears in the first quarter at Levi
These are the traits we look for in today’s NFL when we look for potential franchise quarterbacks, and they are the traits of Oregon Ducks’ signal caller Marcus Mariota. There are plenty of people who will tell you that they fully expect Mariota to be the first quarterback taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, and I’m one of them. He is everything Jameis Winston is, without all of the controversy. He’s the smarter, and safer draft pick for a team that’s looking for the leader of their franchise.
And as far as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are concerned, they are most definitely in the market for a quarterback this offseason.
My colleague and fellow editor of The Pewter Plank, Jose Martinez, recently posted his column on why he feels that Winston should be the Bucs’ future quarterback, so today I will do the same with Mariota.
I’ll make my argument through three separate points, and bring it all in with my closing argument.
Number One: He’s Not Jameis Winston
You don’t need a DNA test to prove that these are two completely different guys we’re talking about. Marcus Mariota has quietly led an incredibly successful Oregon Ducks offense, while Winston has loudly done the same. From the sexual assault accusation, to the crab leg theft incident, and the one game suspension for imitating an internet meme on the table of an on-campus dining hall, smarts and maturity are two things that Winston doesn’t seem to possess. Sure, he’s dealt with the distractions and still has Florida State rolling towards a College Football Playoff berth, but stuff like that cannot and will not fly in Roger Goodell’s NFL. The league is a business, and it is about two things: winning and conducting yourself like a professional. Winston has been nothing but a winner, but everything but a professional.
If you go all the way across the country and have a look at Marcus Mariota, you’ll quickly realize he’s the anti-Winston: a calm, quiet leader who does nothing but put up points and lead Oregon to Pac-12 glory. He puts defenses to shame, without putting shame on the campus. An NFL franchise can be confident that a guy like Mariota won’t be a terror in the media, and will still give hope for the future of their team. And while there are plenty of FSU alumni in the Tampa Bay area, the community can get behind Mariota just as much, if not more, once they see what he’s got at the NFL level.
Number Two: He’s A Nightmare For Defenses, Could Actually Lead A High-Powered Lovie Ball Offense
If you had to compare him to any current pro quarterback, Mariota best resembles Colin Kaepernick. Depending on who runs Tampa Bay’s offensive playcalling next year, that could be a very good thing. Lovie Smith’s teams never really had an offense that predicated itself on playing downfield and taking multiple shots deep per quarter. Although Mariota could run that offense with confidence, he’s best suited in what Smith’s team is more likely to run: the West Coast offense. It is what Kaepernick runs in San Francisco, and it has been pretty successful. With Mariota’s ability to run the read option, extend plays if the pocket collapses, and get the ball to Mike Evans when he sees a good matchup, this would be the best case scenario. Also, an offense like that would allow the Buccaneers’ stable of running backs to run wild in a heavy-rush offense.
Number Three: He Makes The Big Plays, And Doesn’t Make The Big Mistakes
While the biggest knock on Marcus Mariota is that he could be a “system quarterback”, let’s look at the big on-the-field knock on Jameis Winston: he makes mistakes early in football games that gives his opponents a chance. In the NFL, that’s not going to cut it.
How is this for efficiency? 32 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2012; 31 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2013; 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions through 2014 so far, and he’s still got time left in the season.
He’s completing over 67% of his passes, and is getting 10 yards per attempt. These are all makings of monster playmaker at the next level, with the efficiency that can demoralize any defense.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-8 on the season, and while they are only two games out of the division with six games to play, the most likely scenario is that this team ends up with a top five draft pick at the end of the year, and uses it on a quarterback. They didn’t like the possibility of negative attention when considering drafting Johnny Manziel, and for much of those same reasons, I believe they’ll avoid Jameis Winston like the plague, while implementing a few smokescreens.
I think Marcus Mariota is the biggest and brightest draft target on the Buccaneers’ radar right now, and if things continue to go south for them in the NFC South race, the Oregon star quarterback could be bringing his talents thousands of miles to the southeast of his campus.
Not only do I think it is possible, I think it is what’s best for the ship.