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Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The Debate for the Next Decade

The ever-engaging debate about the upcoming draft and the two stellar playcallers that will define it.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I thought it would be fun to have a debate amongst everyone regarding the upcoming NFL Draft. While there are two clear names at the top of everyone’s draft board, who will be the better quarterback for the next decade?

Draft pundits claim Jameis Winston as the number one choice for Tampa Bay, while others have moved Marcus Mariota higher up the board.

I decided to do what any writer would do – break down both players, their positives, their negatives, and come to a conclusion on who I think will be the better NFL fit.

Let’s start off with one thing.

It is really hard to make it in the NFL as a quarterback

First, rabid fan bases expect QBs to be ready immediately. Second, coaches aren’t given time to groom their inexperienced passers, because they get fired every three years. And, third, most importantly might I add, not every QB fits into the right system, scheme or team atmosphere.

The reason why the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are good every year, is because they have fantastic management, from top to bottom. The Minnesota Vikings and the Oakland Raiders, well, they had the Loveboat, and Al Davis for 50 years.

Sometimes, good college quarterbacks get put in bad situations. Think about it, it’s just like choosing work for the average American citizen. Would you rather take the standard 8-5 corporate job, get the two-week paycheck, come home to the wife complaining about your day, or do you start your own business? Now one is much more established, is stable, and the other, is risky, has promise, but can be a hit or miss.

(No pun intended to all of us corporate sellouts.)

Looking back at our previous quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of the draft, there were a lot put in risky situations.

From 2010-2013, (the 2014 class is still incomplete), of the 20 QB’s drafted in the first Two Rounds, nine are solid busts, six are solid starters, and five are given the grade of incomplete, in the form of EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Robert Griffin III, Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford.

The moral of the story is: Many will try; only a few will survive.

Comparing College Statistics

In three years at Oregon, Mariota passed for an average of 3,598 yards and 35 TD’s per year. In two years at FSU, Jameis Winston passed for an average of 3,982 yards and 33 TDs. Mariota’s completion percentage was 67%, Winston’s 66%. The average Passer Rating for Mariota was 171.8, and Winston’s 163.3. The only major difference, is that Mariota rushed for more yards (745 to 142 per season).

Winston leads handily in winning percentage, at 26-1, versus Mariota’s 36-5.

Jameis is 6’4", and 230 lbs, while Marcus is 6’4", and 220 lbs.

Winston won the Heisman in 2013, Mariota won in 2014.

Similar size, similar stats, similar successful college careers.

Completely different NFL-Caliber Quarterbacks.

System Quarterbacks

Winston has proven to us that he can read defenses. He was diagramming plays in the 5th Grade! He played in a pro-style offense at FSU, and is light years ahead of Mariota in that department. He can make all the throws, and has a frame that can withhold pressure on Sundays.

In my analysis on Heisman Winning System Quarterbacks, a lot of them turn to dust in the NFL, and you can add Mariota to that list in my opinion.

He is a product of a system. Put him on the Philadelphia Eagles, and he could succeed. Anywhere else, and he will more than likely fail. The NFL requires a quarterback who can make passes inside the pocket, make reads before the snap (without the help of coaches), and go through progressions.

Mariota is a running quarterback. He is not a drop-back passer. He has never taken a snap under center, and never called a play in a huddle. Now while some of you disagree with me, because of the success of other running quarterbacks in the NFL, let me explain that reason.

Debunking the New Age of Athletic QBs

The two most successful athletic QBs in today’s NFL are Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. They have won more games than most, and at a young age. But there is a caveat. They are not relied upon to win games, because of the strength of the rest of their team.

San Francisco (when they were good), was a run-first team, that relied upon Frank Gore’s hard churning yards, and their stellar defense. Colin Kaepernick was a game-managing byproduct of a fantastic defense, a fantastic coach, and depended upon the run to set up the pass.

This past year, San Fran decided to see if Colin can win with his arm. They brought in free agent wide receivers, spread the offense out, went away from running the ball, and it did not work. Kaepernick failed miserably in his reads, his throwing percentage plummeted, and the 49ers lost because of it.

Seattle is similar. Their offense runs behind the trunk legs of Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ offensive line. The Legion of Boom defense is one of the best in the league, and does not depend solely upon Russell Wilson to lead them to victory. Again, he is a byproduct of a system, and is a game-managing QB.

The day Seattle moves to a pass-happy offense, is the day Wilson will falter.

And don’t forget, for every Russell Wilson, you have multiple failures in Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and RG3. Just to name a few.

Comparisons to Current NFL Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota is similar to Colin Kaepernick.

Similar tall and wiry frame, with average throwing releases, and both running quarterbacks who lit up the scoreboard in college. They can improvise on the run and make outstanding throws outside the pocket, but the everyday reads and progressions of an NFL quarterback are still incomplete.

I compare Jameis Winston to Cam Newton, in a passing sense.

While Newton adds a different dimension as a runner, he is a quality drop back passer.

Both are above-average passers in the pocket, and have strong arms. They can make all the throws, and can scramble if necessary. The similarities in their confidence are steadfast. Both players have a sort of swagger that is compounded by their successes, equally winning National Championships in college.

Are Tampa Bay and Tennessee the right fit for Jameis and Mariota? Only time will tell.


One of the most overlooked aspects in drafting a college quarterback is leadership.

Jameis is a gravitating figure. The kid loves football. He has the passion that every GM and coach yearn from their franchise quarterback. And more importantly, he is a leader.

As was evident on Jan 6, 2014, in the National Championship Game. Auburn scored a go-ahead TD, with 1:19 left in the game. The biggest drive of the year was staring the Seminoles right in the face, and staring right back was a 19-year old redshirt freshman who led his team down the field with a game-winning touchdown drive. In the biggest stages of them all, he came through in flying colors.

Mariota is a very quiet leader. He does not display a fire, nor is there a commanding presence about him. Winston has led his team out of deficits and made comebacks. Mariota took 90% of his snaps while his team was leading, and rarely faced pressure.


So in the end, there are many factors when finding a great quarterback. Some are put in great situations, as evidenced by Russell Wilson. What I look for is a great college quarterback who can come to a downtrodden team, and lead them to success.

It takes an overzealous confidence, a competitiveness to win, and the ability to put the team on your back in tough situations.

What put the nail in the coffin for me in this debate, was watching Gruden’s QB Camp on ESPN.

While sitting with Gruden, I saw another coach across the table, walking through plays knowing exactly what was coming. An engaging personality that understands the NFL concepts and can read a defense.

That person was Jameis Winston.

On the other side, I saw an athlete who was receiving audibles from the sidelines. He was just learning to call plays in a huddle, and was not a player that I can see a 52-man roster rallying behind.

Famous Jameis will be an above-average quarterback in the NFL, while Mariota will depend completely upon the system he gets drafted into.