Published in The Crow’s Nest February 2015
At 2-14, the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured the worst record in not just their division, but the entire NFL.
Their consultation? A No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft — a pick of the litter.
Nothing says “We need a quarterback,” more than releasing last season’s starter Josh McCown, which puts two figures in mind for the Bucs next QB: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
At Florida State University, Winston carried his team to a national championship victory in just his first year as a starter. That year, he won the Heisman Award, given to the country’s best collegiate athlete.
One year later, questions of his maturity and decision making were brought up due to his constant run ins with the law. From stealing sodas from Burger King and crab legs from Publix to a speculated rape, he became labeled an “idiot” by a majority of the nation.
Winston leaves FSU with a 27-1 overall record in hopes of becoming a star NFL QB.
Now, for Mr. Squeaky Clean Mariota. Mariota has shown the attitude and team leadership many NFL coaches and owners desire. After falling in the 2014 national championship following their demolition of FSU in the Rose Bowl semifinal, what many speculated became true — he is heading for the pros.
Just one year after Winston held the Heisman trophy, Mariota had his turn. He had 105 passing touchdowns, 26 rushing touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in his three-year career at Oregon and led his team to a 36-5 overall record.
Being beat by Ohio State in the big game, however, made scouts skeptical.
Not only was he inaccurate on needed third down plays, Mariota wasn’t himself, leaving everyone wondering if he can make it in the pros.
The NFL will be a huge adjustment for Mariota. If head coach Lovie Smith and the Bucs choose to switch to a spread offense, it may work.
Stars like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have shown there is always room for change. The Bucs would become the next team with a mobile QB during this evolution of offensive schemes.
Or maybe they want to stay more traditional and go with a pocket-passer who can run when needed, which makes drafting Winston more logical.
Winston has the size and has proven he can take big hits from linebackers. Although his off-the-field activities should be monitored closely, Winston could carry the Bucs into the playoffs if they fix their offensive line. Nothing will encourage a new offensive lineman more than having to protect the organization’s future.
I have no ill-will toward Mariota, but I have never been too fond of running QBs, although they make for some great highlights. The important thing to remember when opting for a running QB is that they often lack durability. The rules have changed to protect the QB while in the pocket, which is why we see more passing plays. Kaepernick is sure to fade out, and I will be shocked if he ever wins a Super Bowl. Wilson is fortunate to have a great running back and defense to carry him to glory. And Robert Griffin III was drafted behind Andrew Luck for a reason.
Winston and Mariota will not be drafted first and second; one of them will fall down the line. But one thing is for sure: One of these QBs will be selected No. 1 by the Bucs on April 30. My prediction is Winston will wear the No. 5 jersey under center opening day.