Marcus Mariota is an interesting case, you either love his potential, demeanour, attitude or you think he's the next great bust. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of middle-ground when it comes to evaluating the Oregon prospect. You know that I fall into the first category considering Mariota as a top-notch prospect who will adapt his game to excel at the next level.
Yesterday Mariota spoke to the media and this is what he had to say.
On what he considers his greatest challenge:
"For me, it's going to be huddling. I haven't huddled in a while. That'll be the No. 1 thing. It seems like a little detail, but it's a big thing. There are other things as well -- three-, five- and seven-step drops. That's all stuff I've been working on."
On whether he's motivated by those who question whether he can thrive in a pro-style offense:
"I guess you could say it's a little bit of motivation, but it's not the reason why I'm doing this. There's a purpose for why I'm doing this. I love the game and I want to be part of this for a long time."
On how he benefitted from being tutored by former NFL backup Kevin O'Connell, who was hired this week as the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks coach:
"He gave me a play sheet and he told me to read the play calls out loud every night. That's something little, but as this process goes, it's going to help me to get used to speaking in a huddle. It's new. I haven't done it since high school." (Mariota also mentioned that he has been working out with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.)
On whether he considers himself the best quarterback in the draft:
"As an athlete, as a competitor, any person would tell you they're the best. I truly believe that in myself. We'll see whatever decision is made."
His demeanour was one that you can come to expect from the Hawaii native, a cool, calm and collected personality. In his pre-combine mock draft NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah mocked Mariota to the Jets stating:
There's a new regime in New York, and oftentimes that coincides with a new signal-caller. Mariota needs some time to develop, but he could ultimately be the answer to the Jets' QB woes.
When asked about the difficulty of scouting a player from a spread offense, the Jets GM had this to say
We're seeing a lot more of that style of offense," Maccagnan said. "Really not to focus on Marcus, but I think what happens with a lot of players, especially the college aspect, there's more unknowns with them. So if you look at what he does in college and you try to project what he's going to do in the NFL, if you don't see him actually do those things, it's like anything in life you have more uncertainty about how he's going to develop or fulfill his potential.
"It's not really anything per se with the offense. You look at him and you kind of realize there's a lot of things that you don't really see on the college tape that you can put a value on, so you have to speculate about it a little. I think at the end of the day when you look at a lot of quarterbacks coming from those systems to the NFL, a lot of it has to do with the intangibles about the player, in terms of his aptitude, his work ethic, his mental toughness."
The concerns that Maccagnan specifies are the same concerns we have as fans. Can Mariota play from under center? How can we possibly know, we've never seen him do it. Can he take 3,5 and 7 step drops and deliver the ball with timing based on the passing windows being open, it's hard to judge. Can Mariota work from his first progression through to his 2,3 and even 4th? This is something I addressed in an article earlier this year when I compared Jameis Winston ro Mariota, which you can read here and I saw an interesting comment yesterday regarding Mariota working through his progressions.
"It's dangerous to start putting Marcus in a box as a spread quarterback who won't be able to make the jump and project to a pro-style offense,"
"If you watch the national-championship game, even though they're always in the gun, it wasn't catch the ball, take a step and throw it," he said. "It was catch the ball, and he would actually do an abbreviated, three-step drop.
"Watch him scan the field. Watch how he's going through progressions -- one, two, three, sometimes even four. The route concepts even started becoming much more complicated as the year went on. They weren't just typical spread route concepts. There were things you see on Sundays in the NFL.
The easy way out is to say, 'It's an easy spread offense that Bryce Petty runs down at Baylor.' It's nothing like what Baylor does. Nothing. Marcus would be a better third-down passer than RG III ever was -- ever. They're totally different in my view. He's going to need some time. It's not going to be like Jameis [Winston], who is running a pro-style offense. Marcus is going to need a good coach who will teach it to him in an orderly fashion, but he's more than capable of handling it."
This is something I can't stress enough. Bryce Petty's system is 100% based on pre snap reads, quick catch and throw short routes. You can't tarnish every spread offense with the same brush. To say that Mariota doesn't know how to read a defense is plain wrong, to say that he can't work through progressions is plain wrong. To say he doesn't have experience running a pro-style offense is 100% correct, to say he may not be able to put it all together when being asked to do it, is absolutely fine.
However let us go back to the Mike Maccagnan quote, if you can't see these prospects do it at the college level you need to base your projection on everything they do do, but also their aptitude, work ethic and mental toughness. If you put Mariota's ability with projections on his NFL potential based on those characteristics, if he is there at #6 the Jets will probably be taking him.
His work ethic is elite, his aptitude, intelligence and mental toughness are among his best traits. Chip Kelly went so far as to say that the QB intelligence of Mariota is on par with Peyton Manning. You have that athletic ability, that arm and you pair it with that kind of intelligence , you've got yourself a great prospect. I've seen close to 20 game tapes of Mariota and I remain firm in my belief he will become an elite player in the NFL and if the Jets were to pass him up, it would likely come back to bite us.
If you want to read out scouting report of Marcus Mariota, click HERE