Oregon’s Football Recruitment Needs Marcus Mariota to Thrive in the NFL

Marcus Mariota 95, OSU,12,KC

Oregon quarterbacks do not have the best track record when it comes to production at the NFL level. Since 1999 and prior to Marcus Mariota, Oregon had five quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft, two of which were 1st-round picks – Akili Smith and Joey Harrington — two in the 5th round – Dennis Dixon and A.J. Feely — and Kellen Clemens, who was taken in the 2nd round.

Now, let’s take a closer look at how these QB’s fared as starters during their NFL careers:

Joey Harrington: Selected 3rd overall in the 2002 NFL Draft with a career win-loss record of 26-50.

Akili Smith: Selected 3rd overall in the 1999 NFL Draft with a career win-loss record of 3-14.

Dennis Dixon: Selected 156th overall in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft with a career win-loss record of 2-1.

A.J. Feely: Selected 155th overall in the 5th round of the 2001 NFL Draft with a career win-loss record of 8-10.

Kellen Clemens: Selected 49th overall in the 2nd round of the 2006 NFL Draft with a career win-loss record 8-13.

Dennis Dixon launching  a pass downfield back in 2004

John Giustina

Dennis Dixon launching a pass downfield in 2004.

As you can see, most of those quarterbacks did not perform so well at the NFL level with a combined record of 47-88, with Dixon being the lone QB to post a winning record as a starter.

Those stats do not bode well for the Ducks, especially when it comes to recruiting top-notch talent at the quarterback position. The best high school quarterbacks in the nation often have NFL aspirations, and that affects where they choose to play their college ball because certain colleges have higher levels of pro potential based on the types of offenses they run.

We can look to the most recent NFL Draft to see the effect in action, Jameis Winston and Mariota were both elite talents coming out of college, but Winston attended Florida St., which runs a traditional pro-style offense, while Mariota attended the U of O, which runs a version of the spread offense and what analysts around the nation call a “gimmick” offense that does not prepare quarterbacks for the NFL.

That was and still is the major blemish on Mariota — he never played in a traditional offense — and that he doesn’t know how to lead the huddle, call plays or make the 3-, 5-, and 7-step drops. But this stigma on college QBs coming from a spread system exists for a reason, because often it is true.

There were cases of quarterbacks lighting it up in college with the spread offense, only to hit a developmental wall in the NFL. So, for the sake of the Ducks football future with recruiting pitches to the top quarterback prospects in the nation, Mariota needs to break through that wall.

If Mariota’s skills do not transition well to the next level, what does that tell future recruits about Oregon? It tells them that you can break records and win a bunch of trophies, only to flame out where it matters most — in the NFL.

Marcus Mariota takes the field as the Ducks face off against Washington State

Kevin Cline

Marcus Mariota taking the field as the Ducks face off against Washington State.

Obviously, the Ducks have done fairly well for themselves without the help of a 5-star QB recruit, but with the post-Mariota era upon us, it wouldn’t hurt to pick-up a top quarterback recruit every couple of years — just in case Coach Mark Helfrich does not stumble upon another Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback.

Thankfully, Marcus Mariota is the best of us — the most talented player to ever don a brightly colored Oregon Duck jersey. He has all of the tools to succeed at the next level, and if the major blemish against him is merely his transition to a pro-style offense, then I’ll bet on him every time.

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson

Steven was born in raised in Sacramento, California home to what he thinks is the greatest sports franchise in the world, the Sacramento Kings. He is a die-hard Kings fan and gets a little emotional if you bring up the 2002 Western Conference Finals, he still hasn’t gotten over it yet. Along with the Kings, Steven is a huge fan of the San Francisco 49ers and the World Champion San Francisco Giants. He went to his first Duck football game in 2008 and never looked back. Steven is now a Junior at the University of Oregon Majoring in Advertising and Minoring in Business Administration. In his free time you can find him hanging out and snowboarding with his friends or watching YouTube highlight reels of Marcus Mariota. You can reach Steven on Twitter @steven__jackson (two underscores).

  • Platypus1

    Very true. Oregon has a lot weighing on the success, or otherwise, of MM with the Titans. Lots of old-school pundits wanting to say “I told you so.”

  • Vicki Smith

    I agree that MM needs to be successful, but although FSU has had good QB’s, none have been particularly successful
    In the NFL either

  • Dan

    I agree with the overall premise of the article that Marcus succeeding in the NFL would help Oregon in recruiting. Helfrich or Frost has said that our conference rivals negatively recruit against Oregon saying that our system does not adequately prepare players for the NFL. If Marcus were to succeed, they couldn’t use this line anymore, at least for QBs (I’m sure that they would come up with something else negative to say, since they can’t sell their program).

    That said, I wonder how many programs have QBs that were drafted during that time period with winning records in the NFL (something which is extremely hard to do). Even mighty USC with all of their blue chip, 5-star, pro-style QB prospects (e.g., Barkley, Sanchez, Leinert) haven’t fared so well in the NFL.

  • SOD

    Part of the issue with the QBs is the teams that drafted them. Example: both Smith and Harrington went to REALLY bad teams. Their careers were an uphill battle from day one and their records reflect that. Feeley and Clemens stuck in the league quite a while – also not easy to do – as backups. Their w/l reflects them being thrown into the fire when the starter went down as much as anything they had control over.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    marcus mariota had a QB efficiency rating of 173 upon exiting the college ranks. joey harrington had a QB efficiency rating of 133. mariota and joey harrington were both QBs that went to the U of O but that is where the similarity ends. mariota could fail…anyone could fail but if he does it will certainly not be because of this piece of trivia.

    • hokieduck

      Joey also got drafted by Detroit and crammed into a system that depended on offensive line play being stellar. It was horrid. He had no weapons to speak of at RB or wideout. The defense sucked. He was asked to come in and save the franchise as a rookie and got beaten about so badly before he had a chance to even learn the new terminology that his confidence was shattered immediately.

      I am concerned about Marcus in this regard as well. Tennessee drafted a fullback in the fifth (?) round and their statistics about playing from the shotgun (they ranked 6th last season) probably has to do with the fact that they were so behind in games early on that they had to throw constantly and their line was an injured ever-changing patchwork (remarkably like Oregon’s last season).

      Marcus is a different breed of cat than the other QBs above. He will succeed.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    SOME OF THE POINTS ARE VALID BUT IF YOU SERIOUSLY THINK MARIOTA WONT SUCCEED AT THE NEXT LEVEL THEN YOU CLEARLY HAVEN’T WATCHED HIM PLAY THE GAME. Harrington went to a bad team and it reflected in his game later, Clemmens as why on earth did the Jets take him with a 2nd round pick if they weren’t going to make him their QB and he never really got a fair shake as Rex as head Coach clearly had no clue when he stuck with Sanchez who clearly is only a backup. Look at USC QB’s as they are drafted most often in the 1st round but have faired worse than most of the Duck QB’s. Best 1 in the last what 30 plus years is Palmer and he’s not close to being Elite. So if you new what you were talking about you’d clearly know Coaching matter’s and Marcus has 1 of the best at getting QB’s to succeed at the next level. Alex Smith was a spread QB and when he got Norv Turner as his QB Coach for 1 year he was significantly better. Marcus will end up being one of those every 10 year QB that produces at a high level throughout his career. He’s better than Winston and it will prove out to be so from a future stand point. I’m not a betting Man but if I was I’d put all my money on him being a future HoF QB.