Last night, the Oregon Ducks defeated the Florida State Seminoles, 59-20, in the 2014 Rose Bowl Game. But almost, if not, every Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan was only looking at Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Their demeanor, their passing strength and accuracy, their attitude under pressure, every little thing was put under a microscope. This is expected with the Buccaneers in the driver’s seat when it comes to picking their first cornerstone quarterback in franchise history. They can’t mess this up.
For starters, let’s look at their stats, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.
The stats are nearly identical. Mariota got the slight edge in total yardage when you factor in his 62 rushing yards on eight carries. Winston made more mistakes when you include that incredibly flukey fumble. But there’s more to being a franchise quarterback than putting up solid stats. Can you be a leader? This is where Jameis shined.
While I did see his spat with Jimbo Fisher where the Seminoles head coach threatened to bench him, Winston also showed his leadership qualities, seeking out his teammates after the loss and occasionally giving some words of encouragement.
After each mistake by his ‘Noles teammates, Jameis would go up to that individual, console him and walk down to the sidelines with him. When times were looking tough, Winston was trying to motivate his guys to continue playing their heart out. Times like last night’s defeat show what type of player the Buccaneers could have when things aren’t smooth sailing.
Then, there are Winston’s plays, especially his scramble and across-the-body throw to Travis Rudolph for the touchdown. It has been said time and time again that Jameis is the more complete quarterback and he showed glimpses of that incredible potential last night.
For Mariota, the major concerns were his accuracy and ability to prove he can be a good pocket passer. At times, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner showed great touch on his throws, especially the pivotal big plays to Darren Carrington. But, were those plays the result of a good read by Mariota or a good call by head coach Mark Helfrich? On the 56-yard TD pass to Carrington, Mariota follows up a quick read to his tight end Evan Baylis on an out route by noticing the cornerback attempting to read his eyes and jump the route. I have probably looked at that play around 10 times and it’s amazing how much faith Mariota has that the ‘Noles cornerback is going to fall for the short pass. This is what it looks like right before he makes the throw:
On his second touchdown pass to Carrington, Mariota was clearly following the play set up by Helfrich. After repeatedly executing the screen pass for more than 10 times in the first half, the Seminoles were understandably anticipating another screen but were hit with a deep ball instead.
Then, here is Mariota’s 23-yard touchdown run on 4th and two. If the Buccaneers do go with the Oregon Duck with the first overall pick, he will add another layer to the team’s offense. Now, his speed has been talked about plenty but that play showed some incredible vision and agility. Prior to breaking out to green pasture, this is what Mariota was facing:
It looks like a dead end, right?
Thanks to some quickness and a sprinkle of field vision, Mariota was able to split the defenders before cutting it towards the end zone.
All in all, Mariota was the better quarterback but he still has some question marks. Winston didn’t play up to his potential but he showed off the intangibles which could also make him a good, all-around quarterback for years to come. Choosing between these two guys is going to be difficult.
Still, Mariota, who is probably the front-runner right now, can solidify himself as the No. 1 overall pick in the BCS Championship Game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Stay tuned.
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