Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out
For many Duck football fans the dream season would have been a Heisman (check), a national championship (close — but no cigar) and a number one draft pick for Marcus Mariota. While the draft pick thing is still up in the air, the national noise seems to be shifting in favor of Jameis Winston — and well it should. Why Jameis Winston deserves to be picked number one — and probably will be — is the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.
1. Tampa Bay is doing the choosing. A team doesn’t earn the right to the number one draft pick by having a history of making good decisions and Tampa Bay is no exception. The Bucs have zero Ducks on their roster. They have players from football powerhouses Fordham, Western Washington, Idaho State, Northwest Missouri State, Bethel College, Montana State, Northern Colorado and even Chadron State, wherever that is — plus one smart guy from Harvard. But not a single Duck.
Maybe the Bucs should put the guy from Harvard in charge of player selection, because what they have been doing hasn’t worked out so well. Their last winning season was 2010 when (Coincidence? — I think not…) they went 9-7 behind the running of former Duck LeGarette Blount, who has since moved on to New England (and a Super Bowl ring).
In the four years since 2010, the hapless Buccaneers have won a paltry average of four games per year, culminating in 2014’s 2-14 debacle which earned them the title of “Worst in the NFL” and the right to the first draft choice. Doug Martin, their best running back amassed 494 yards on 134 carries this past season, earning himself the number 40 position in the NFL for rushing stats. Martin is out of Boise State, so it is a bit of a wonder how Tampa Bay managed to discover Idaho as a source of running backs, but not Oregon. It’s not THAT much farther — and well worth the ticket. After all, there’s a reason they named it the “Oregon Trail,” not the “Boise Trail.”
All in all, Tampa Bay finished 29th out of the 32 NFL teams in rushing yards, averaging 85.9 per game. Picking a lead-footed quarterback like Winston over Mariota — who would add a dimension to their running game — will fit perfectly with the Buccaneers’ track record for management decisions.
2. Jameis Winston. Winston deserves to become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Having claimed that a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl “coulda went either way” and then turning around and asserting that he will win a Super Bowl next year demonstrates an understanding of both past and future that is consistent with Tampa Bay’s management decisions — decisions that secured the franchise the number one pick.
In a recent article published on Oregonlive.com, the Associated Press’s David J. Phillip compared Mariota and Winston and gave Winston the nod for passing, leadership and decision-making. According to Phillip, Winston’s passes have tremendous velocity and accuracy, and since Winston worked in a pro-style offense at Florida State, his decision-making is stronger than Mariota’s.
Let me get this right, David… you’re saying that the guy who threw eighteen interceptions is a better passer — and a better decision-maker — than the guy who threw four interceptions? This is logic that only management that has gravitated to the lowest end of the bell curve could embrace — and Tampa Bay fits the bill.
As for leadership, Phillip gave points to Winston for coming off as confident when he claimed that he would become the “face of the franchise” repeatedly. And Phillips took points away from Mariota for being humble. So much for leadership by example — but again, it’s the sort of thing that you could expect Tampa Bay to buy into, given its history.
But that’s not all. It’s a mere 274 miles from Tallahassee to Tampa Bay, so if the Bucs choose Winston there’s the local guy makes good angle. Maybe Seminole fans will bolster attendance by showing up at Tampa Bay games and doing the “No means no-o-o” chant. Or here’s an idea — since Buccaneers are involved, they could change it to “Yar means yar-ar-ar.”
3. Marcus Mariota. If the forces of good in the Universe are looking out for the good who walk the Earth, Marcus Mariota will end up with a better gig than Tampa Bay. He deserves it. It isn’t just that the Buccaneers finished 2-14 last year. They did it in the NFC South, a division that the Carolina Panthers won with a 7-8-1 record.
In 2014 Tampa Bay scored a meager 277 points in 16 games, basically an average of only two touchdowns and a field goal per game. It scored a grand total of seven rushing touchdowns the entire year. At 292 yards of total offense per game, the Bucs were less than ten yards away from dead last in the NFL — playing in a division that didn’t have a single team with a winning record.
So…. other than what appears to be a complete lack of blocking, running and receiving to back a guy up, this is about as good as it gets for a quarterback’s NFL launch pad. Better that Tampa Bay happens to Winston.
There is always the chance that the light will flicker on long enough for Tampa Bay to use its first pick to take Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston. For Mariota’s sake we can only hope this doesn’t happen.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck