Ex-Titans director of scouting says Marcus Mariota was 'easy choice' over Jameis Winston

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A little more than three years ago, the NFL community spent the offseason debating two highly hyped quarterback prospects that had the potential to turn around franchises in need of saving. Even today, more than three years after the Buccaneers chose Jameis Winston with the first-overall pick and the Titans took Marcus Mariota with the second-overall pick, the debate continues: Winston or Mariota?

On Monday, former Titans director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield claimed that for the Titans it never was much of a debate. During an interview with Paul Kuharsky on The Midday 180, Beddingfield said that Mariota was “an easy choice’ over Winston at the time.

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Necessary disclaimer: Whenever a quote comes out about evaluations from a prior draft, it’s best to season the quote with a dose of skepticism. Case in point, the time Bill Polian claimed he gave Tom Brady a first-round grade. It’s too easy for former scouts and executives to say a few years after the fact that they knew all along that a certain player was going to be good. 

Now that we’ve thrown some skepticism on that quote, we can agree with Beddingfield that it’s clear that the Titans have always thought highly of Mariota. 

Back in 2015, Chip Kelly, who coached Mariota at Oregon, was still the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. According to Peter Schrager, the Eagles offered the Titans a 2015 first-round pick, a 2015 second-round pick, and a 2016 first-round pick for the second pick. A year ago, Kelly set the record straight about the trade offer, claiming that an offer like that never materialized “because they made it known that they really weren’t looking to trade the pick.” Other teams, like the Bears, were reportedly interested in moving up for Mariota as well, but the Titans declined to move back for a boatload of picks.

The point being, if the Titans weren’t sold on Mariota, they very easily could’ve traded down. But they didn’t. 

Still, the debate hasn’t been settled quite yet. In terms of strictly football, both Mariota and Winston have exhibited clear signs of promise and disappointment. Mariota got the Titans into the playoffs in 2017 (and led an incredible comeback win), but he did so while throwing more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13). Winston’s already thrown for 11,636 yards in his three-year career, but he’s also thrown 44 interceptions (the second-most in that span).

There’s just not a substantial enough difference in their stat lines to say one quarterback will be better than the other.

Comp. % YPA TD% INT% Rating

Winston

60.8

7.5

4.5

2.8

87.2

Mariota

61.8

7.4

4.6

2.7

88.6

But Winston’s issues away from the field matter too.

At Florida State, Winston was accused of sexual assault — an accusation that was known before the 2015 NFL Draft. Just last week, the NFL suspended Winston three games after he allegedly groped an Uber driver in 2016. The league said in its findings that Winston touched “the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.” In February 2017, Winston was forced to backtrack after he told young students that girls are “supposed to be silent.” And during this past season, he faced criticism after he came off the sideline to instigate a fight with the Saints. 

Clearly, Winston’s issues at Florida State have followed him to the NFL. Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that Mariota “not having any red flags was a red flag” for at least one NFL team before the draft. 

Both quarterbacks are entering pivotal seasons, but it’s Winston who faces more pressure given his suspension and history of issues away from the field. When Winston returns to the field, it’s very likely the Buccaneers will be off to an 0-3 start and it’s worth noting that Winston could be banned from the NFL if he violates the Personal Conduct Policy again.

As for Mariota, he’s facing more normal problems. Recently, Mariota got together with his pass-catching crew for some throwing sessions in Nashville as he tries to master a new offense under new coach Mike Vrabel.

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