Imagine, if you will, a world in which NFL scouts could watch the best two quarterbacks in the upcoming draft battle it out in a game where everything is on the line. Luckily we don’t have to imagine this, as this is what we will get to see this New Year’s Day. This duel of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota could very well be the first of many to come. On top of any future rivalry at the next level, this playoff game could go a long way in deciding who will go first and wind up in Tampa Bay come April.
While we are all clearly biased in our love of Mariota, I want to show why any NFL GM worth his salt should take him over Winston. First off, just look at Mariota’s TD to INT ratio this season: 38 TDs to just two INTs!! That is absurd. To put that into perspective, Tom Brady became the first unanimous NFL MVP with 36 TDs and four INTs. Meanwhile, Winston has thrown 24 TDs to 17 INTs this season. One of the most telling stats for this season, however, is that on 50 fewer pass attempts than Winston, Mariota has thrown for more than 200 additional yards.
In comparing their Heisman years we can see that the numbers do look a bit closer, with Winston actually throwing for more TDs and yardage in his Heisman season. Winston also threw eight more INTs and, as many people have noted previously, did so against very lackluster talent. Outside of just Winston, we can go back and compare Mariota’s season to RGIII’s and see that Mariota stacks up well against him as well. RGIII threw for 37 TDs and six INTs, for almost 4,300 yards and an outstanding 72% completion percentage. However, much like with Winston, we can see that RGIII played a much lower level of competition than our skinny Hawaiian, and even with those inflated stats, Mariota has a better TD to INT ratio.
Outside of just boring stats and statistical analysis, look at the games they’ve played. While many people like to say Winston has an “it” factor because of his ability to win close games, Mariota generally doesn’t let them become close games. On raw ability Mariota is better, and to anyone who says Mariota hasn’t played in a pro style offense, tell Seattle that the spread and spread option aren’t pro offenses. Pretty much the only things I can give Winston a definitive edge in is prototypical size (which, again ask Seattle or San Francisco if they mind having short or skinny QBs) and the benefit of playing on the east coast and getting favorable coverage from the big networks.
In the end this game will not quiet the Oregon haters, nor will it remove any of certain sports networks’ East Coast Bias. What it will hopefully do, however, is give Mariota a chance to prove that he is the better quarterback, and potentially give our beloved Ducks their second championship game appearance in the last five seasons.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck