Making the Case for Marcus Mariota

By Liam Broderick
Liberal Arts Major
This year at the 2015 Rose Bowl, it was the college football quarterback matchup everybody had been waiting for. The Florida State Seminoles, led by quarterback Jameis Winston, faced Marcus Mariota and the de facto behemoth Oregon Ducks. The Ducks dominated the Seminoles 59-20. What stood out about the game was how the two seemingly equal quarterbacks looked almost entirely different on the field. Mariota was dominant, throwing for 338 yards with a 72% completion rating and even rushed for 62 yards with a touchdown. Winston only threw for 64% completion rate, and rushed for -15 yards on 8 attempts. Although they both threw an interception apiece, and their passing yardage was comparable, this represented something bigger.
The 2015 Rose Bowl was a spectacle in its own for sure, but it was also a great introduction to the two quarterbacks to the masses that tend to watch the NFL more than college football. Soon enough, both Winston and Mariota will be household names in the NFL, as they’re slated on nearly every draft prediction sheet to be the first quarterbacks to go.
The 2015 NFL draft is on April 30 and this year, the first pick in the NFL Draft goes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buca have been struggling with locker room issues and missing puzzle piece lineups for years. This year, the team has put immense interest and focus on using their first round pick to draft a quarterback to help lead their borderline anemic offense.
Between veteran wide receiver, 32 year old Vincent Jackson, and the explosive 2014 performance of the 21 year old Mike Evans, it’s tough to say a new quarterback wouldn’t have weapons. Not to mention the presence of a competent when healthy running back like Doug Martin eases the transition for both the team and the new quarterback.
Draft predictions around the world have the Buccaneers slated to pick Winston in the first round. According to Newsweek’s Bob Glauber, they have “dropped strong hints throughout the pre-draft process that quarterback is their top priority and Winston is their top choice.”
The question on my mind, and on many others around the country feels almost silly to ask: Why not Heisman winner Marcus Mariota?
It seems silly because Mariota has been talked about as the number one draft pick since midway through the 2014 college football season. Mariota’s college career was astounding, passing for just under 11,000 yards in 41 games, and showing excellent command both in and out of the pocket. In fact, he rushed for a hair over 2200 yards in his three seasons at the University of Oregon. Mariota has proven athleticism, blowing every other quarterback out of the water with a mean 4.52 forty yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has even likened him to a young Aaron Rodgers. Among other things, Mariota has been noted for his work ethic and academic success both in high school and at Oregon, proving his diligence.
Winston is another great quarterback, playing two seasons at Florida State, but can he really compete for the first round pick? While playing in fewer games than Mariota, the two had similar college careers; similar completion rates, yards per attempt, and Winston even averaged more yards per season than Mariota. The key difference statistically seemed to a difference in the rushing game. Winston averages about 2 yards per rush, and he’s much more hesitant to run than Mariota. Given that the Buccaneers offensive line is far from successful, a mobile quarterback is necessary for their offensive productivity.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. On April 16, Erica Kinsmen filed a lawsuit against Winston for sexual battery and assault, among other despicable crimes. There does seem to be very credible evidence, including text messages and Facebook statuses by teammates, that indicate Winston may have drugged and raped Kinsmen. For a team to sign a player like that is making a dangerous gamble, regardless of guilt. Harboring a criminal player without serious discipline could end as bad as Aaron Hernandez did for the Patriots. Signing a party-oriented quarterback with an alcohol problem didn’t work out so well for the Cleveland Browns signing of 2014 draft prospect Johnny Manziel, who since draft day last year has been involved in bar brawls and rehab more than playing football.
Signing a player attached to a sexual battery and assault civil law suit is a serious red flag, whereas a player with a Heisman trophy and a good report card is a safe investment. As I see near-unanimous agreement on the issue of Jameis Winston going first in the draft, there had to be a case made for Marcus Mariota.

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